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Despite Narrow Marketplace Focus, Etsy Stock Has Crafty Potential

Todd Shriber

Among the newer generation of internet marketplace stocks, Etsy (NASDAQ:ETSY) is one of the more mature names. The company went public almost five years ago and was in business for a decade prior to that.

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Despite its tenure, Etsy has fallen behind marketplace rivals such as Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) and share price performance reflects as much. Amid expectations of slowing growth, Etsy stock stumbled to a 7% loss in 2019 while the S&P 500 and other broader benchmarks surged. Shopify more than tripled.

Etsy’s 2019 performance is disappointing when considering the strength of the U.S. consumer and economy. The company matches buyers and sellers in areas like clothing, jewelry and vintage items. And it collects a fee on those transactions.

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The stock even tumbled following a solid third-quarter earnings report, in which the company revealed sales growth of 30% and raised gross merchandise sales (GMS) and revenue guidance. Typically, upbeat guidance should be rewarded by investors. But that wasn’t the case for Etsy stock. The negative reaction puts pressure on the fourth-quarter earnings update and 2020 guidance to be spectacular.

“During the third quarter we launched several transformative initiatives to serve as the building blocks for long-term, sustainable growth,” Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said in a statement. “… We are just beginning to see the impact of these initiatives, which we believe further our competitive advantages and will have a more meaningful contribution to our results in 2020 and beyond.”

Headwinds and Opportunity

Perhaps the two biggest hurdles Etsy faces in 2020 are convincing investors last year’s GMS and sales growth is somewhat sustainable and prompting market participants to pay up for that growth. That’s another way of saying that almost 46 times this year’s earnings and 7 times sales, Etsy isn’t inexpensive.

The good news for Etsy is that many of its customers are constantly shopping. Plus, the housing market is strong. The iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (BATS:ITB) jumped almost 49% last year. And millennials — a core Etsy demographic — are entering the home-buying arena in force. The online marketplace operator stands to benefit.

While Etsy stock has its critics on Wall Street, it has supporters, too, including RBC Capital analyst Mark Maheny.

Maheny likes the 2020 outlook “for the stock given a large, loyal, and growing community of buyers and sellers and multiple growth initiatives, including free shipping, advertising, and product improvements,” reports Barron’s.

The average analyst price target on Etsy is just over $65, but the stock closed barely under $45 on Friday. So something has to give. Either analysts lower their price forecast or the stock starts marching closer to the current consensus target.

Bottom Line: Etsy Stock Is Underappreciated

Etsy isn’t as big as some of the aforementioned names and doesn’t have the sizzle markets have ascribed to Shopify. But the Brooklyn-based company does have some important factors in its favor. Notably, this isn’t some ultra-expensive, nowhere-close-to-profitable internet unicorn.

Etsy was actually cash flow positive in the third quarter and ended that period with $856.7 million in cash or cash equivalents. Plus, the company is buying back its own stock, something that mature, financially sound companies do.

After repurchasing $2.8 million of its own shares, Etsy may want to consider buying more of its stock before it rallies too much. Another repurchase would serve as an avenue for boosting earnings. Investors may want to follow suit.

As of this writing, Todd Shriber did not own any of the aforementioned securities.

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