As President Donald Trump begins to put actual plans in place to build his promised border wall, many investors are wondering: how does this protectionist measure affect investments south of the border?
Here's a Latin investment that doesn't care about physical walls or trade policies and it's set to thrive, even if Trump's "America First" policy results in an all-out trade war: MercadoLibre (MELI - Get Report) .
As an investment destination, Latin America carried a stigma even before the emergence of Trump's protectionism. Many investors still view the region as undeveloped and riddled with civil strife, poverty, corruption, and violent crime... in short, too risky. In the financial media's coverage of emerging markets, Asia seems to dominate the headlines.
Many Latin countries undeniably struggle with a multitude of woes, but a preoccupation with the region's age-old afflictions misses the bigger and considerably more upbeat picture.
Latin America is home to a growing, increasingly educated and computer-literate middle class. More and more of these Latin consumers are flexing their newfound purchasing power online.
The explosion of e-commerce activity in Latin America chiefly benefits one company: MercadoLibre, the region's leading e-commerce player. The company has substantial operations in Mexico.
The name MercadoLibre translates into "free market" in Spanish and the company is headquartered in Argentina, South America's most Europeanized nation. MercadoLibre hosts automated web-based commerce platforms that allow businesses and individuals to list items and conduct sales and purchases online in an auction or fixed-price format. MercadoLibre's mode of operation is familiar to anyone who's used eBay or Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) .
With a market cap of $9.36 billion, MercadoLibre also offers MercadoPago, an integrated payments mechanism similar to PayPal (PYPL - Get Report) by which users send and receive payments online. In addition, the company's MercadoClics program allows businesses and individuals to promote their products and services through online display and text advertisements.
MercadoLibre now operates e-commerce platforms tailored towards Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
As the largest company of its kind in Latin America, MercadoLibre's dominance confers competitive advantages that elude even eBay and Amazon. As opposed to the more homogenous cultures of North America and Europe, the countries south of the border represent a rich tapestry of languages, currencies, customs, and regulations. It's a high barrier to entry over which MercadoLibre has already vaulted.
The average analyst expectation is that MercadoLibre will rack up year-over-year earnings growth of 20.60% in the current quarter, a whopping 191.70% in the next quarter, 37.90% in the current year, 32.90% next year, and 31.23% over the next five years on an annualized basis.
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