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Square Stock Is Not the Easy Money You Might Think It Is

Todd Shriber

Square (NYSE:SQ) is one of the dominant names in the fast-growing mobile payments market and while the stock has, at various points, reflected expectations for that rapid growth, Square stock is not an easy money play.

square stock sq stock

Source: Chris Harrison via Flickr (Modified)

Square is up more than 28% year-to-date, that performance is unimpressive when measured against a broader basket of fintech stocks. For example, the Global X FinTech ETF (NASDAQ:FINX) is up more than 32.32% this year. Additionally, Square stock resides 29% below its 52-week, putting the shares deep into bear market territory.

As of this writing, Square stock is just under $72, indicating that if analysts’ are anywhere close to their assessments on the name, most of which are bullish, there could be considerable upside for the shares. The average analyst price target on Square is nearly $83.

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New Markets, New Challenges

When Square first started out, the company’s bread and butter was small business owners looking for ways to get paid faster. Think hair stylists, landscapers, pet-oriented businesses and other entrepreneurs with mobile businesses that were processing large amounts of transactions, but at small to medium dollar amounts per swipe.

So for Square stock to be attractive over the long-term, the company needs to forge into markets, and those areas are chock full of well-heeled competitors.

“We contend the limits of these attributes will be tested as it moves into restaurants and other complex verticals,” SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Andrew Jeffrey said in a note out in April.

Square has built competitive advantages in the market for credit and debit card readers that operate through mobile phones. Ask most investors to name another company that competes in this arena and they may struggle to answer, but getting into more conventional, brick-and-mortar businesses brings opportunity and potential risks for Square stock.

Square continues to grow at a very fast rate, with adjusted revenue up 49% year over year,” said Morningstar in a recent note. “The business is transitioning as the company builds out more ancillary products, with transaction-based revenue up a relatively modest 26% and subscription and service-based revenue up 97%, excluding acquisitions.”

The research firm has a $49 fair value estimate on Square stock.

Some analysts are more bullish, but investors should query why. Square stock could get a lift from its reward card known as boost, but are 10% discounts at select restaurants and coffee stops enough to move Square stock. Apparently, some on the sell side think the answer is “yes.”

KeyBanc’s Josh Beck “thinks that Square will compound annual revenue growth of about 35% over the next three years and will hit have a 26% margin by 2021. His target price is $100 a share, which represents about 40% upside,” reports Barron’s.

Bottom Line on Square Stock

Much of the bull thesis for Square stock revolves around the Cash app, a mobile app that customers use to send money to friends, family, etc. Square’s Cash app competes with Venmo, operated by PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL); and Zelle, a money transfer service offered by a slew of major U.S. banks. Analysts are enthusiastic regarding Cash app’s prospects.

Another area underscoring the risk/reward with Cash app is how Square frame the app. Beyond being a payment transfer option, Square wants customers to think of and use Cash app like a traditional bank.

Square is “still working with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation on receiving a banking charter. That would allow Square to expand the types of lending and deposit business it can do without a banking partner,” according to Barron’s.

“We believe Cash App—and Cash Card in particular—will drive upside to SQ revenue estimates over time as user engagement increases, and platform growth expands,” said Barclays’s Ramsey El-Assal in a recent note. “While SQ has remained guarded regarding Cash App user statistics, we believe enough distinct data points have been released to allow us to put together a more complete model of Cash App revenue performance.”

Still, there are concerns with Cash app, too. Notably, Square is a latecomer to this space, arriving here after Venmo and Zelle, meaning the perhaps the most legitimate opportunity for Cash app to pilfer market share from its rivals is to offer lower fees, meaning lower margins for Square.

“We continue to believe that Square’s relatively late entry into the space and the existing consumer customer bases at Venmo (PayPal) and Zelle (the banks) leaves it as the most poorly positioned among the leading platforms from a long-term perspective,” said Morningstar. “As such, we think the future of this business hinges on how many platforms ultimately remain viable, and we continue to believe Cash App could prove to be a distraction from more achievable growth opportunities closely related to the core acquiring business.”

Square is a well-known name in a compelling market niche, but even with its recent declines, Square stock is not particularly cheap. For now, investors may be able to find better opportunities in the fintech space, including PayPal.

Todd Shriber does not own any of the aforementioned securities.

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