Is StoneCo Ltd. (STNE) A Smart Long-Term Buy?

JDP Capital Management, an investment management firm, published its second quarter 2021 investor letter – a copy of which can be downloaded here.  A portfolio return of 7.26% was recorded by the fund for the second half of 2021, underperforming its S&P 500 benchmark that delivered a 15.25% return for the same period. You can view the fund’s top 5 holdings to have an idea about their top bets for 2021.

In the Q2 2021 investor letter of JDP Capital Management, the fund mentioned StoneCo Ltd. (NASDAQ: STNE), and discussed its stance on the firm. StoneCo Ltd. is a Cayman Islands-based financial technology solutions provider, that currently has a $17.6 billion market capitalization. STNE delivered a -32.10% return since the beginning of the year, while its 12-month revenues are up by 35.96%. The stock closed at $56.98 per share on July 16, 2021.

Here is what JDP Capital Management has to say about StoneCo Ltd. in its Q2 2021 investor letter:

StoneCo (NYSE: STNE) has been in our portfolio since early 2019 and has appreciated 225% since. In the first half of 2021 the stock was down nearly 20% and was a drag on the fund’s performance.

Stone is a leading fintec company in Brazil that provides back-office software, loans and other financial services to small and medium sized businesses (SMBs). We have discussed Stone in past letters and the company’s “ladder up” from a card processor to a supplier of enterprise software used to sell financial products on top of such as working capital loans.

The company generates a lot of cash that it reinvests to acquire or build new financial products for its customer base. Since we invested, the company has grown the number of SMB clients by 3x, revenue by 2.3x, and net income by 2.2×11.

The pandemic’s impact on SMBs in Brazil has been severe, especially for the many retailers who are only now adopting an e-commerce strategy. In the first half of 2021 Stone increased loss provisions on its lending product, and overall growth has slowed somewhat. The stock’s decline earlier this year was not surprising, but investors are now ignoring progress that has enhanced Stone’s position for coming out much stronger when the recovery begins.

StoneCo Q1 2021 Earnings Call: “Based on (i) our learnings with lockdowns last year, (ii) recent client transactional data and (iii) learnings from the dynamics of countries where vaccines are widespread, we expect that once vaccination scale (which we think will happen in the second half of 2021), the economic recovery will be fast and – although delayed – Brazil is moving in the right direction. For these reasons, we have made an informed decision to be ready for recovery by investing in growth…”

“…In the first quarter, we decided to increase our salesforce headcount by 24%, marketing investments by 33%, customer service and logistics headcount by 32% and technology headcount by 20% in order to be the fastest player when our economy comes back to normal levels.”

“I want to start our presentation by highlighting that Brazil went through a second wave of COVID in the first quarter of ’21, which imposed commerce restrictions in several cities throughout the country. Those restrictions were felt by our clients with average TVP reaching a low in the end of March…

…But similar to the behavior we saw in the comeback from the first lockdown in 2020, we already observed significant and quick recovery with average TPV in May achieving levels above January 2021. As Thiago mentioned, we expect that once vaccinations are scaled, the economy recovery of the country will be fast.”

In terms of COVID recovery opportunities within our portfolio, Stone might be the most “coiled” because the impact on Brazilian small businesses has been so traumatic. In addition, Stone is part of a much larger and fast-moving transition happening in Brazil around the digitalization of financial services. The speed of this transition is unique to Brazil because the Central Bank is actively trying to reduce the country’s previous dependency on a small handful of large banks. Important progress in the first half of 2021 included closing on the long-awaited acquisition of Linx, a mature provider of enterprise software with a large footprint across Brazil. The acquisition will provide Stone meaningful cross-selling opportunities and a more diversified customer base.”

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Based on our calculations, StoneCo Ltd. (NASDAQ: STNE) was not able to clinch a spot in our list of the 30 Most Popular Stocks Among Hedge Funds. StoneCo Ltd. was in 39 hedge fund portfolios at the end of the first quarter of 2021, compared to 47 funds in the fourth quarter of 2020. STNE delivered a  -13.93% return in the past 3 months.

Hedge funds’ reputation as shrewd investors has been tarnished in the last decade as their hedged returns couldn’t keep up with the unhedged returns of the market indices. Our research has shown that hedge funds’ small-cap stock picks managed to beat the market by double digits annually between 1999 and 2016, but the margin of outperformance has been declining in recent years. Nevertheless, we were still able to identify in advance a select group of hedge fund holdings that outperformed the S&P 500 ETFs by 115 percentage points since March 2017 (see the details here). We were also able to identify in advance a select group of hedge fund holdings that underperformed the market by 10 percentage points annually between 2006 and 2017. Interestingly the margin of underperformance of these stocks has been increasing in recent years. Investors who are long the market and short these stocks would have returned more than 27% annually between 2015 and 2017. We have been tracking and sharing the list of these stocks since February 2017 in our quarterly newsletter.

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Disclosure: None. This article is originally published at Insider Monkey.