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Jack Dorsey's love of bitcoin could be a problem for Square

Daniel Roberts

Square stock fell 15% on Friday after its second-quarter 2019 earnings report. The mobile payments company beat expectations on revenue ($562.8 million vs. $557.8 million expected) and on earnings per share (21 cents vs. 16 cents expected), but disappointed with weak Q3 guidance.

Square’s Cash App, which competes with PayPal-owned Venmo, was a highlight in the quarter: it brought in $260 million in revenue, and $125 million of that was revenue from bitcoin. That was Square’s highest quarterly revenue yet from bitcoin since it added the option to buy bitcoin in January 2018. Square’s bitcoin revenue for all of 2018 was $166 million.

Square’s Q2 bitcoin profit came in at $2 million.

$2 million is an extremely small number for a company with quarterly revenue of $562 million and a market cap of $30 billion.

But Square (SQ) CEO Jack Dorsey is a bitcoin believer, and made that abundantly clear on the earnings call, when he declared, “We love you, bitcoin.” And in an interview with the Times of London last year, he said, “The world ultimately will have a single currency, the internet will have a single currency. I personally believe it will be bitcoin.”

Should Square shareholders be cheering on Dorsey’s bitcoin love? The answer depends on whom you ask.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey leaves after his talk with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace Friday, June 7, 2019 in Paris. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey leaves after his talk with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace Friday, June 7, 2019 in Paris. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Wolfe Research analyst Darrin Peller has told Yahoo Finance that Square’s embrace of bitcoin shows the company “is innovative enough to be very quick and try new things with commerce.” KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Josh Beck calls it “a brilliant customer acquisition strategy” and believes the bitcoin feature is partially to thank for Cash App’s fast growth.

Nomura Instinet analyst Dan Dolev, a Square bull, chalked up Friday’s stock dive to a “very punitive market right now” adding, “The fundamentals are rock solid. People are overly focused on GPV and these expectation games.”

BTIG analyst Mark Palmer sees things differently.

Palmer rattles off a litany of hurdles Square is now facing: Square’s growth in the all-important gross payment volume (GPV) metric has gradually slowed over the last few quarters; it is now going after larger merchants (sellers with more than $125,000 in annual payment volume), which means it is competing with bigger payments players like First Data, which recently merged with Fiserv, and Global Payments, which merged with Tsys; and in the event of an economic downturn, which many experts are bracing for, small businesses—Square’s bread-and-butter customers—will be hit hardest.

With all that to worry about, bitcoin is a distraction, Palmer argues.

“This is something that we think gets much more hype than it’s worth,” he says. “$2 million in gross profit... it’s a very small tail wagging a large dog. We’re talking about a CEO who said on the record that he believes that bitcoin is going to replace the U.S. dollar as the global reserve currency in the next 10 years, which, I will just leave it at that. People will just have to make their own judgments as to whether that is a prudent comment.”

Dorsey has a lot to worry about in the next year, with so much M&A activity in the payments industry, plus worrying about some hot point-of-sale names Square wasn’t competing with in the past, like Shopify and Stripe. Amid all this, he’s also still running a second public company, Twitter.

Square was Yahoo Finance’s Company of the Year for 2018, a year in which the company released a slew of new hardware products and the stock soared. In 2019, it’s up 24% so far, following the damage from Q2 earnings.

Daniel Roberts is a senior writer and live show host at Yahoo Finance. He closely covers payments tech. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

Read more:

How Eventbrite's horrible stock performance has hurt Square

Can Jack Dorsey keep running two public companies?

Square's new debit card 'kills several birds with one stone'

Why Square’s bitcoin play was ‘brilliant’

Square is Yahoo Finance’s 2018 Company of the Year

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