The American company is a pioneer in the online payment industry and one of the competitors of Wirecard which was featured here before.
PayPal clearly manages to fly on its own since it got separated from eBay in 2015 following a highly anticipated spin-off: the turnover is going through the roof - from $9 billion back then to almost $15 billion expected for the year - and the operating margin increases substantially too, currently flirting with 20%.
Once it obtained its independence, PayPal made a series of acquisitions - among which the very popular companies Zenmo and iZettle - for a total amount of around $4 billion. These acquisitions have been fully auto financed, which hasnt kept the company from reducing its debt to zero.
These signals show the intrinsic quality of PayPals business, which generated $2 billion in profits last year. This self-sufficiency is strategic because the online payment industry is evolving fast: the agglomeration of new services is, therefore, a condition sine qua non for success and a companys ability to make acquisitions is the surest way to achieve this before the competition does.
The proof: the 102 merger-acquisition types of transactions made in the first semester of 2018 alone have reached a total volume of $46 billion, a sharp increase compared to 2017 when the total transactions reached $33 billion.
If the capital markets seize up - which, after all, happens more or less inevitably in successive cycles - PayPal will still be able to develop its business and protect its market share.
Lets note however that the American company isnt the only one benefiting from this competitive advantage: its main competitors are also very profitable and running the same scaling race. Entering the European market will be complicated and the Chinese market - monopolized by WeChat - will probably be prohibited.
PayPal continues to capture new market share in North America - and elsewhere in the world - and currently supports 255 million active accounts, a number that is up 15% compared to last year.
The companys financial position is remarkable - with, as we said above, a long-term debt level that is zero - and the companys ability to raise capital to make a transformative acquisition is quite enviable, especially at the current share price, which is at an all-time high and thus represents a potential bargaining chip.
PayPals market capitalization of $107 billion implies a valuation of around 43 times the expected profit in 2019, a multiple that is a lot higher than the market average. This clearly anticipates a continuation of the excellent growth momentum that started over the last decade.
As we wrote in our Wirecard analysis there is room to capitalize: no one doubts that the volume of online payments will continue to grow at a steady pace. For the first half of the year alone, for example, the volume of transactions managed by the German company went up by 48% - PayPal handles a business volume that is a lot bigger and benefits from a better global brand awareness.
PayPals management seems to be very confident about the companys prospects since its been buying back shares massively for three years now - including at the current valuation levels which raises some questions when it comes to the adequacy of this capital allocation.
These significant buybacks are without a doubt being used to compensate the substantial stock option compensations - which are dilutive for the shareholders - since the latter reached $733 million in 2017, almost 6% of the operating expenses.
At the current share price, the success of an investment in PayPal shares will, therefore, depend on the companys ability to deliver results that are in line with the markets ambitions. The latter hasnt been disappointed yet, and rightly so: among all the current manias - electric cars, co-working, social media, etc. - the electronic payment industry is the only one to produce significant profits.