Square (NYSE:SQ) stock has fallen precipitously since my last analysis. Shares are down from roughly $80 per share in late July to $58.29 at the close Sept.13. With slowing growth, it’s no surprise the stock has lost its mojo. But is the recent dip a sign that its time to buy?
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In July I wrote about how Square stock could be a buy on a dip. However, with recent developments, I am less confident SQ stock can continue trading at such a high premium to its payment processing peers.
How have things changed? Read on to see why it’s best to avoid Square stock.
Sentiment Turns Bearish for SQ Stock
Results for the quarter ending June 30 were decent. Year-over-year adjusted revenues were up 46%. Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, debt and amortization skyrocketed from $62 million in the first quarter of 2019 to $105 million in Q2 2019. The company’s Cash App business continues to scale, now generating $135 million in revenue for Q2.
But investors are now writing off Square’s growth potential. Adjusted revenue grew only 15% from the prior quarter. The company has built a tremendous brand with their flagship payment processing product. But in order to fuel growth, SQ needs new revenue streams to move the needle.
Food ordering could have been the next frontier. The company owned DoorDash competitor Caviar. However, Square decided to throw in the towel, agreeing to sell Caviar to DoorDash for $410 million. The deal does have a silver lining, as it strengthens Square’s ties to the food delivery powerhouse.
Square is losing key customers. In late August, the financial press made big hay over the loss of Danish chain Joe & The Juice. This highlights Square’s troubles with international growth. With U.S. sales slowing down, global growth is necessary to justify SQ stock’s current valuation.
Is this making a mountain out of a molehill? Joe & The Juice was likely not material to Square’s revenues, but it does strengthen the bear case for Square. Square has a weak economic moat. Competitors with the capital to scale can easily steal market share.
InvestorPlace’s Mark Hake discussed this Sept. 12. Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) and PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL) are inching into Square’s business. Square is now playing defense. SQ is even trying to enter their respective businesses. The purchase of Weebly was obviously a play to build a Shopify-esque e-commerce platform. Cash App is Square’s answer to PayPal’s Venmo.
With this in mind, let’s see if the valuation of Square stock compensates for these risks.
Despite Drop, Square Stock Remains Overvalued
Slowing growth has impacted the Square stock price. But shares continue to trade at a high valuation. Square’s forward price-to-earnings ratio is 52.5. This is almost double PayPal’s forward P/E of 30.3. SQ trades at a discount to PYPL in terms of its price-to-sales ratio, but enterprise value/EBITDA is another story. Square’s EV/EBITDA is 718.3. This is leaps and bounds above PayPal’s EV/EBITDA ratio of 40.3.
But will Square stock grow into its valuation? If you take PayPal’s EBITDA margin (18.3%) and apply it to Square’s trailing 12-month sales ($3.95 billion), EBITDA would be $722.9 million. Apply a 40.3x multiple. This gives you an enterprise value of $29.1 billion, close to the mark of Square’s current EV ($24.9 billion).
There are a few caveats. With increased competition, there will be further pressure to compete on price. PayPal can easily subsidize a price war with Square. While Shopify is an equivalent size to SQ, Shopify can easily offer its e-commerce clients an in-house payment service. Growing into its valuation will not come easy.
All of this makes it tough to justify the current price of SQ stock. It would be one thing if Square was the “name” in its niche. But in many ways, Square is unfortunately an “also-ran.”
Bottom Line: All Bets Are Off
Square stock has the potential to turn around the ship. Sales growth is slowing, but net revenue has not diminished. The company continues to make gains in the global payments marketplace. However, the recent negative sentiment is justified. In a “winner-take-all” world, even disruptors can get disrupted. Shopify is not an unsinkable ship, but it could do some damage to Square’s market power. PayPal’s scale brings up concerns over a potential price war.
I missed the mark in my last Square analysis. I chose to stay on the sidelines, but believed SQ stock could inch higher. With growth names like Square, it’s tough to predict future outcomes. For investors looking at the stock today, it’s best to have the same conclusion.
Square stock could be cheap down the road. But for now, the company needs leaps-and-bounds growth just to match its valuation. Things could be different when the company announces earnings again in November. But for now, steer clear of Square stock.
As of this writing, Thomas Niel did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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