MercadoLibre's CEO Presents At Deutsche Bank Access 2012 Technology Conference - Transcript

MercadoLibre, Inc. (MELI)

dbAccess 2012 Technology Conference

September 12, 2012 6:20 p.m. EDT


Pedro Arnt – CFO


Ross Sandler – Deutsche Bank


Ross Sandler

Okay, we're going to get started. So, thanks for joining us. I'm Ross Sandler, the recently joined member of the Deutsche Bank Internet Research team.

We've got -- we're very excited to have MercadoLibre all the way up here from Argentina to participate in the conference. So we've got Pedro Arnt, the CFO.

Why don't you just give them a quick 60-second overview. I mean, I think most people are familiar with your story, but just give us a quick overview of it, and then we'll hop into questions.

Pedro Arnt

Absolutely. Apologies for being late.

So, MercadoLibre, we've been operating in the region since '99. Started as an idea arbitrage, I believe, we say now as eBay. The business model has evolved significantly and what we have today is an ecosystem of essentially online solutions for merchants and retailers that want to move online.

So we have the marketplace business where we started, which is a marketplace that has certain characteristics that make it a little bit different from our US peer in that 98% of what we retail is done through fixed price, 80% of the goods sold are new goods, 70% of the merchants selling on the marketplace are small-sized retailers. So in many ways it has a flavor more similar to Amazon's 3P business.

We have a business called MercadoPago, which is very similar to what PayPal is in the US. Essentially the strategy there is to become an online payment standard for online transactions. And more recent business units around online advertising, so, search advertising based on our different web properties and MercadoShops, which is a software-as-a-service e-commerce store front solutions that allow us to offer technology to set up web stores for merchants that either want to go multichannel and, in addition to sell on our marketplace, sell on their own URLs or their own brands. And as that product develops and rolls out more features, it will allow us to start targeting midsize and larger retailers and offer them technology.

And the key thing about the ecosystem for us, of course, is that anyone who's using any of those pieces we can cross-sell the different pieces of that ecosystem to them. And so as distribution channels, they work very synergistically amongst themselves.

Question-and-Answer Session

Ross Sandler

Great. So I thought we'd start with just a macro given that I think most of the audience here is based or is focused a little more in the US. Can you just give us an update on what the environment is like right now in kind of your core retail business across the various regions? And has the macro environment changed materially in the last call it two or three quarters visa vie where we are today?

Pedro Arnt

So I think -- so there's two relevant I think pieces to look at macro, right? The first one is looking at online commerce and how early days it still is and the tremendous tailwinds that that secular shift from offline retailing to online retailing presents for a company like ours. So, online commerce is still less than 3% of overall retail in the region. The online payment space is extremely nascent. And so we're operating with these tremendous tailwinds that should sustain for quite a long time.

And so whether GDP in the region is growing 4% or is it growing 3%, we're fairly isolated from that. At the margin, obviously it's significant. But we have a business model that, A, is just helped by the overall context of constantly growing online commerce. And additionally, the marketplace has typically proven itself to be much more resilient than traditional retailing even in times of tougher macro. So we've gone through economic crises in Argentina, in Venezuela over the last 12 years, and the marketplace continued to perform relatively better than the overall macro and retail space even those times of tougher economics because consumers typically could start looking for selection in price more intensely when macro conditions are less favorable. So I think that's an important backdrop.

Having said that, big picture Latin America I think presents a very compelling investment argument mid to long term, growing middle class, growing access to credit, more stable macroeconomic policies in most of the countries in the region, and I'm sure we'll get to Venezuela and Argentina at some point, than any time in my 40 years of having lived in the region and been in the region. So I think both at a macro and a secular level, compelling positive situation for us going forward.

Ross Sandler

Okay. And then some of the more specific related to the company and some of the things you guys have done in the last 12 months or so. A little over a year ago, you guys basically ripped out all the code that supported the website, the various websites that you managed across the region, and you went through this process of kind of rebuilding the technology in a more flexible way. So, can you just walk us through without getting too deep into the technical aspects of it what were some of the more consumer or merchant-facing pieces that got upgraded and how did this impact conversion rates on the platform?

Pedro Arnt

Sure. So, you know, when you look at online retailing, it's still a fairly new industry as a whole, and so there still are significant points of friction and significant usability learnings that we're going through as an industry. And so it's fundamental as an online retailer that you have a lot of capacity, you constantly innovative and AB test, and really push the envelope on removing friction from the buying piece, whether that is the age-old showing less pages and more clicks, whether it's making the payment process more integrated and more streamlined.

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