SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
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The aggregate market value of the registrant’s Common Stock, $0.001 par value per share, at June 30, 2019, held by those persons deemed by the registrant to be non-affiliates (based upon the closing sale price of the Common Stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on June 30, 2019) was approximately $
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Documents Incorporated By Reference
Portions of the Company’s Definitive Proxy Statement relating to its 2020 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission by no later than April 30, 2020, are incorporated by reference in Part III, Items 10-14 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K as indicated herein.
FOR FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2019
SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
Any statements made or implied in this report that are not statements of historical fact, including statements about our beliefs and expectations, are forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Securities Act”), and should be evaluated as such. The words “anticipate,” “believe,” “expect,” “intend,” “plan,” “estimate,” “target,” “project,” “should,” “may,” “could,” “will” and similar words and expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are contained throughout this report. Forward-looking statements generally relate to information concerning our possible or assumed future results of operations, business strategies, financing plans, competitive position, industry environment, potential growth opportunities, future economic, political and social conditions in the countries in which we operate and their possible impact on our business, and the effects of future regulation and the effects of competition. Such forward-looking statements are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other important factors (in addition to those discussed elsewhere in this report) that may cause our actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, among other things:
our expectations regarding the continued growth of e-commerce and Internet usage in Latin America;
our ability to expand our operations and adapt to rapidly changing technologies;
our ability to attract new customers, retain existing customers and increase revenues;
the impact of government and central bank and other regulations on our business;
litigation and legal liability;
systems interruptions or failures;
our ability to attract and retain qualified personnel;
security breaches and illegal uses of our services;
reliance on third-party service providers;
enforcement of intellectual property rights;
seasonal fluctuations and
political, social and economic conditions in Latin America.
Many of these risks are beyond our ability to control or predict. New risk factors emerge from time to time and it is not possible for Management to predict all such risk factors, nor can it assess the impact of all such risk factors on our company’s business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements.
These statements are based on currently available information and our current assumptions, expectations and projections about future events. While we believe that our assumptions, expectations and projections are reasonable in view of the currently available information, you are cautioned not to place undue reliance on our forward-looking statements. These statements are not guarantees of future performance. Some of the material risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from our expectations and projections are described in “Item 1A—Risk Factors” in Part I of this report. You should read that information in conjunction with “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” in Item 7 of Part II of this report, as well as the factors discussed in the other reports and documents we file from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). We note such information for investors as permitted by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. There also may be other factors that we cannot anticipate or that are not described in this report, generally because they are unknown to us or we do not perceive them to be material that could cause results to differ materially from our expectations.
Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made, and we do not undertake to update these forward-looking statements except as may be required by law. You are advised, however, to review any further disclosures we make on related subjects in our periodic filings with the SEC.
MercadoLibre, Inc. (together with its subsidiaries “us”, “we”, “our” or the “Company”) is the largest online commerce ecosystem in Latin America based on unique visitors and page views, and is present in 18 countries: Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and El Salvador. Our platform is designed to provide users with a complete portfolio of services to facilitate commercial transactions both online and offline.
We offer our users an ecosystem of six integrated e-commerce and digital payments services: the Mercado Libre Marketplace, the Mercado Pago FinTech platform, the Mercado Envios logistics service, the Mercado Libre advertising solution, the Mercado Libre Classifieds service and the Mercado Shops online webstores solution.
Through our e-commerce platform, we provide buyers and sellers with a robust environment that fosters the development of a large e-commerce community in Latin America, a region with a population of over 644 million people and with one of the fastest-growing Internet penetration rates in the world. We believe that we offer technological and commercial solutions that address the distinctive cultural and geographic challenges of operating an online commerce platform in Latin America.
The Mercado Libre Marketplace is a fully-automated, topically-arranged and user-friendly online commerce platform, which can be accessed through our website and mobile app. This platform enables both businesses and individuals to list merchandise and conduct sales and purchases online.
To complement the Mercado Libre Marketplace and also to enhance the user experience for our buyers and sellers, we developed Mercado Pago an integrated online payments solution, was initially designed to facilitate transactions on MercadoLibre’s Marketplaces by providing a mechanism that allowed our users to securely, easily and promptly send and receive payments. Our payments solution enables any MercadoLibre registered user to securely and easily send and receive payments online and also to pay for purchases made on MercadoLibre’s Marketplaces. Currently, Mercado Pago processes and settles all transactions on our Marketplaces in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and Colombia, and is also available for our buyers and sellers in Peru and Uruguay.
The Mercado Envios logistics solution enables sellers on our platform to utilize third-party carriers and other logistics services providers, and provides them with fulfillment and warehousing services. The logistics services we offer are an integral part of our value proposition, as it reduces friction between buyers and sellers, and it allows us to have greater control over the user experience. Sellers that opt into our logistics solutions are not only able to offer a uniform and seamlessly integrated shipping experience to their buyers at competitive prices, but are also eligible to access shipping subsidies to offer free or discounted shipping for many of their sales on our marketplaces.
Beyond facilitating Marketplace transactions, over the years we have been expanding our array of Mercado Pago services to third parties outside MercadoLibre’s Marketplace. We began first by satisfying the growing demand for online-based payment solutions by providing merchants the necessary digital payment infrastructure for e-commerce to flourish in Latin America. Mercado Pago’s online payments business allows merchants to facilitate checkout and payment processes on their websites through a branded or white label solution or software development kits, while also enabling users to simply transfer money to each other either through the website or using the Mercado Pago app. Through Mercado Pago we brought trust to the merchant-customer relationship, allowing online consumers to shop easily and safely, while giving them the confidence to share sensitive personal and financial data with us.
As we deployed our online-based payments solutions, we also observed that individuals, micro merchants and small and medium-sized enterprises’ (“SMEs”) in the physical world were being underserved or overlooked by incumbent payment providers and financial institutions in Latin America and that a very large number of retail transactions were still settled in cash throughout the region. Consequently, we have also aggressively deepened our payments offerings by growing our online-to-offline (“O2O”) products and services. We envision Mercado Pago as a powerful disruptive provider of end-to-end financial technology solutions that will generate financial inclusion to segments of the population that have been historically underserved and operate in the informal economy today.
We currently offer in our main markets solutions for:
In-store physical payments by selling MPOS and quick response (“QR”) payment codes;
Digital payment solutions for utilities, mobile phone top up, peer-to-peer payments and more through our mobile wallet;
Pre-paid cards for users to spend and withdraw their account balances from their Mercado Pago wallet, as well as co-branded credit cards in Argentina;
Merchant credits on and off the Mercado Libre Marketplace and Consumer Credits on the Mercado Libre Marketplace; and
A money market fund to invest balances on Mercado Pago accounts, which we market under the name Mercado Fondo.
In July 2015 we began to expand our O2O payments offering by launching our MPOS initiative in Brazil, Mercado Pago Point, which allows long-tail merchants, SMEs, and individuals not only to receive in-person payments, but most importantly to enable them to offer installments on the products and services they historically sold only in cash. Our MPOS solution allows merchants and individuals to process physical credit and debit cards, either by reading the chip and entering a personal identification number (PIN) or by swiping it. Our MPOS device was designed specifically to fit the needs of underserved or overlooked individuals and SMEs, as we do not require a rental fee for the device and offer a competitive transaction fee structure that gives them the flexibility to advance their sales. It also gives these users access to our full suite of FinTech solutions by integrating with the Mercado Pago app and pre-paid card, without needing a bank account. We subsequently launched our physical point-of-sale solution in Argentina and Mexico during 2016.
The results of our MPOS business not only have been encouraging, but also have given us greater confidence that we are well positioned to capitalize on a large opportunity in payments and FinTech in the region. Since its launch, Mercado Pago Point has grown significantly and in Brazil total payment volume coming from MPOS devices is already double the volume of our online merchant service business.
We launched Mercado Credito, our credit solution, during the fourth quarter of 2016 in Argentina and during 2017 in Brazil and Mexico. Mercado Credito leverages our user base, which is not only loyal and engaged, but also has been historically underserved or overlooked by financial institutions and suffers from a lack of access to needed credit. Facilitating credit is a key service overlay that enables us to further strengthen the engagement and lock-in rate of our users, while also generating additional touchpoints and incentives to use Mercado Pago as an end-to-end financial solution. Initially, we began offering credit to our merchants given our distribution capabilities and in-depth understanding of their sales on the Mercado Libre Marketplace. This has also allowed us to develop our own proprietary credit risk models with unique data that differentiate our scoring from traditional financial institutions, as we are able to leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms that we historically used for fraud prevention. Additionally, because our merchants’ business flows through Mercado Pago, we are able to collect principal and interest payments from their existing sales on MercadoLibre’s Marketplaces, meaningfully reducing the risk of uncollectability on the loans we originate to our merchants.
Having identified a similar opportunity to fill a gap in terms of demand for credit, we have begun to originate working capital loans to merchants who adopt our MPOS solutions. Merchant credit to MPOS merchants was launched in Argentina and Brazil during the second half of 2018.
Because a significant segment of the population in Latin America does not have access to credit cards, and given that the access to credit is an enabler for consumers when purchasing high-ticket items, we have also identified a significant opportunity for consumer lending. We have begun to extend consumer credit to our buyers as well, leveraging their existing data on MercadoLibre’s Marketplaces and the distribution from our marketplace to proactively offer loans to them. Mercado Credito was introduced in Argentina in 2017, in Brazil in 2018 and in Mexico in 2019. Additionally, during 2019, as we better understand consumer’s behavior on our marketplace, we have rolled out Mercado Credito to selected buyers so that they can buy products and services off-platform in Argentina and Brazil.
During the second half of 2018, we launched our asset management product for individuals in Argentina and for individuals and businesses in Brazil. This product is a critical pillar to building our alternative two-sided network vision. It incentivizes our users to begin to fund their digital wallets with cash as opposed to credit or debit cards given that the return our product offers is greater than traditional checking accounts.
With a seamless onboarding, this product allows users to withdraw and use the value stored in their digital wallets at any given time through QR code in-store payments, pre-paid cards, or cash withdrawn from an ATM, without requiring that their funds be trapped in a money market fund or a certificate of deposit to obtain an equivalent return. This product is another way in which we continue to innovate, leveraging the rising trust in third-party e-commerce platforms and low levels of formal sector financial inclusion, which generate a unique opportunity for investment products aimed at users in Latin America who are unbanked or underbanked.
Our advertising platform enables businesses to promote their products and services on the Internet. Through our advertising platform, brands and sellers are able to display ads on our webpages through product searches, banner ads, or suggested products. Our advertising platform enables merchants and brands to have access to the millions of consumers that are on our marketplaces at any given time with the intent to purchase, which increases the likelihood of conversion.
Through Mercado Libre Classifieds, our online classified listing service, our users can also list and purchase motor vehicles, real estate and services in the countries where we operate. Classifieds listings differ from Marketplace listings as they only charge optional placement fees and not final value fees. Our classifieds pages are also a major source of traffic to our platform, benefitting both the Enhanced Marketplace and non-Marketplace businesses.
Complementing the services we offer, our online store solution, Mercado Shops allows users to set up, manage and promote their own online stores. These stores are hosted by Mercado Libre and offer integration with the rest of our ecosystem, namely our marketplaces and payment services. Users can select between a free model and a subscription-based model for enhanced functionalities and value added services on their store.
The following table shows the main services currently available in each country:
Venezuela, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Panama, Bolivia, Guatemala, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador
(*) Mercado Credito, our credit solution of Mercado Pago is available in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.
Our main focus is to serve people in Latin America by enabling wide access to retail and payments e-commerce services, providing compelling technology-based solutions that democratize commerce and money, thus contributing to the development of a large and growing digital economy in a region with a population of over 644 million people and one of the fastest-growing Internet penetration rates in the world.
We serve our buyers by giving them access to a broad and affordable variety of products and services, a selection we believe to be larger than otherwise available to them via other online and offline sources serving our Latin American markets. We believe we serve our sellers by giving them access to a larger and more geographically diverse user base at a lower overall cost and investment than offline venues serving our Latin American markets. Additionally, we provide payment settlement services to facilitate such transactions, and advertising solutions to promote them. We also serve our users by making capital more accessible through different credit products, fostering entrepreneurship and social mobility, with the goal of creating significant value for our stockholders.
More broadly, we strive to make inefficient markets more efficient through technology and in that process also generate value for our stockholders.
To achieve these objectives, we intend to pursue the following strategies:
Continue to improve shopping experience for our users. We intend to continually enhance our e-commerce ecosystem in order to better serve individuals, brands, retailers and other businesses that want to buy or sell goods and services online in a convenient, simple and safe way. We are committed to continue investing in the development of new tools and technologies that facilitate web and mobile commerce on our platform. Within our constant focus on innovation, a key component of user experience is the vertical solutions we offer across key categories. We will continue to focus on improving the functionality of our websites and apps, building a verticalized experience in key categories, driving increased usage of our payments and shipping solutions to deliver a more efficient and safe shopping experience and providing our users with the help of a dedicated customer support department. We will continue to focus on increasing purchase frequency and transaction volumes from our existing users, including the development of our Mercado Puntos loyalty program for frequent buyers.
Continue to grow our business and maintain market leadership. We focus on growing our business, achieving as many scale-related competitive advantages and strengthening our position as a preferred commerce and payments platform in each of the markets in which we operate. We also intend to grow our business and maintain our leadership by taking advantage of the expanding potential user base that has resulted from the growth of Internet penetration rates in Latin America. We intend to achieve these goals through organic growth, by introducing our business in new countries and entering new category segments, by launching new transactional business lines, and through potential strategic acquisitions of key businesses and assets.
Expand into additional transactional service offerings. Our strategic focus is to enable online transactions of multiple types of goods and services throughout Latin America. Consequently, we strive to launch online transactional offerings in new product and service categories where we believe business opportunities exist. These new transactional offerings include, but are not limited to, efforts involving: (a) offering additional product categories in our marketplace, (b) expanding our presence in vehicle, real estate and services classifieds, (c) maximizing utilization of Mercado Pago on our platform and expanding off-platform in online and offline transactions, (d) maximize the value and usage of account money through investments in Mercado Fondo ,(e) maximizing utilization of Mercado Envios, (f) expanding our Mercado Credito service, (g) offering enterprise software solutions to our online commerce business clients and (h) expanding our advertising offerings. We believe that a significant portion of our growth will be derived from these new or expanded product and service launches in the future.
Increase monetization of our transactions. We focus on improving the revenue generation capacity of our business by implementing initiatives designed to maximize the revenues we generate from transactions on our platform. Some of these initiatives include increasing our fee structure, selling advertising on our platform, offering other e-commerce services and expanding our fee-based features.
Take advantage of the natural synergies that exist between our services. We strive to leverage our various services and our Mercado Puntos loyalty program, to promote greater cross-usage and synergies, thereby creating a fully integrated ecosystem of e-commerce offerings. Consequently, we will continue to promote the adoption of our Mercado Envios logistics solution, our advertising solution, and our Mercado Pago payments solution on our Marketplace.
Enhanced Marketplace is comprised of Mercado Libre Marketplace Service and Mercado Envios Service.
Non-Marketplace Services are comprised of our Mercado Pago Service, Mercado Libre Classifieds Service, Mercado Libre Advertising Service, Mercado Shops Webstores Service and other anciliarry businesses.
Our marketing strategy is designed to grow our platform by promoting the Mercado Libre and Mercado Pago brands, attracting new users, generating more frequent trading by our existing users and cross-selling services among our existing user base. To this end, we employ various means of advertising, including placement in leading online channels across Latin America, paid and organic positioning in leading search engines, email and push notification marketing, onsite marketing, presence in offline events and use of targeted promotional discount coupons. During 2019, we also launched Branding campaigns for Mercado Libre and Mercado Pago, executed on open TV, cable TV, Radio, Billboards and on online channels such as YouTube. We continued carrying out a complete coverage of promotional campaigns on commercial dates such as Child’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas and dates specific to the e-commerce industry such as Hot Sale, CyberMonday and Black Friday. Our expenditures in marketing activities were $439.3 million during 2019 and $249.6 million during 2018.
Product Development and Technology
At December 31, 2019, we had 3,492 employees on our information technology and product development staff, an increase from 1,083 employees at December 31, 2018, due to new hires and as a consequence of improvements in our ecosystem products such as Mercado Credito, our loyalty program Mercado Puntos and Mercado Envios, which increased our information technology and product development staff. We incurred product development expenses (including salaries) in the amount of $223.8 million in 2019 and $146.3 million in 2018.
We continually work to improve both our Mercado Libre Marketplace and Mercado Pago websites so that they better serve our users’ needs and function more efficiently. A significant portion of our information technology resources are allocated to these purposes. We strive to maintain the right balance between offering new features and enhancing the existing functionality and architecture of our software and hardware.
The effective management of the Mercado Libre Marketplace and Mercado Pago software architecture and hardware requirements is as important as introducing additional and better features for our users. Because our business has grown relatively fast, we must ensure that our systems are capable of absorbing this incremental volume. Therefore, our engineers work to optimize our processes and equipment by designing more effective ways to run our platform.
We develop most of our software technology in-house. We have two development centers in Buenos Aires and one in Córdoba where we concentrate the majority of our development efforts, in addition to that we do have development centers in San Luis, Mendoza, Santa Fe and Entre Rios in Argentina. We also have other research and/or development centers in Uruguay, Brazil and Chile.
We have made acquisitions in the past to enhance our software development capabilities, and we outsource certain projects to outside developers. We believe that outsourcing the development of certain projects allows us to have a greater operating capacity and strengthens our internal know-how by incorporating new expertise into our business. In addition, our developers frequently interact with technology suppliers and attend technology-related events to familiarize themselves with the latest inventions and developments in the field.
We also rely on certain technologies that we license from third parties, suppliers of key database technology, operating system and specific hardware components for our services.
Since 2010, we have been continuously working on a deep technology overhaul to switch from a closed and monolithic system to an open and decoupled one. We split Mercado Libre into many small “cells”. A cell is a functional unit with its own team, hardware, data and source code. Cells interact with each other using Application Programming Interfaces, or API’s. All the Front-Ends are also being rewritten on top of these APIs. This effort has consumed a large amount of capital, people and management’s focus, and we intend to keep investing in this area. In October 2012, we opened our platform to the developer community during a launch event in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We seek to further open our platform to developers in the other locations in which we operate, with the objective of continuing to enhance our ecosystem.
We anticipate that we will continue to devote significant resources to product development in the future as we add new features and functionality to our services. The market in which we compete is characterized by rapidly changing and disruptive technologies, evolving industry and regulatory standards, frequent new service and product announcements, introductions and enhancements and changing customer demands. Accordingly, we believe the cornerstone of our future success will depend on our ability to adapt to rapidly changing technologies, to adapt our services to evolving industry and regulatory standards and to continually improve the performance, features, user experience and reliability of our services in response to competitive product and service offerings and evolving demands of the marketplace.
Like most retail businesses, we experience the effects of seasonality in all our operating territories throughout the calendar year. Although much of our seasonality is due to the Christmas holiday season, the geographic diversity of our operations helps mitigate the seasonality attributed to summer vacation time (i.e. southern and northern hemispheres) and national holidays.
Typically, the fourth quarter of the year is the strongest in every country where we operate due to the significant increase in transactions before the Christmas season (see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Seasonality” for more detail). The first quarter of the year is generally our slowest period. The months of January, February and March correspond to summer vacation time in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Uruguay. Additionally, the Easter holiday falls in March or April, and Brazil celebrates Carnival for one week in February or March. This first quarter seasonality is partially mitigated by our operations in the countries located in the northern hemisphere, such as Colombia and Mexico, the slowest months for which are the summer months of July, August and September. Lastly, commercial campaigns like Black Friday and Cyber Monday generate an increase in transactions.
The online commerce market is rapidly evolving and is highly competitive. We expect competition to intensify even further in the future. Barriers-to-entry for large, well-established Internet companies are relatively low, and current and new competitors can launch new sites at a relatively low cost using commercially available software. While we are currently a market leader in a number of the markets in which we operate, we currently or potentially could compete with marketplace operators, businesses that offer business-to-consumer online e-commerce services or others with a focus on specific vertical categories, as well as a growing number of brick and mortar retailers that have launched online offerings. Over the past few years, we have seen competition intensify not only as local players such as B2W or Magazine Luiza grow their ecommerce businesses, but also from international players such as Amazon which has been operating in Mexico since 2015 and more recently launched and expanded its online retailing business in Brazil.
In the classifieds advertising market, we compete with regional and local players with general or verticalized focus. In addition, we face competition from a number of large online communities and services that have expertise in developing e-commerce, facilitating online interaction, or both. Other large companies with strong brand recognition and experience in e-commerce, such as large newspapers or media companies, also compete in the online listing market in Latin America.
Mercado Pago competes with existing online and offline payment methods, including banks and other providers of traditional payment methods. Mercado Pago also competes in the rapidly evolving FinTech space with local and strong global players that are becoming increasingly interested in Latin America.
Intellectual Property Rights
We regard the protection of our intellectual property rights, such as, copyrights, trademarks, domain names and trade secrets as critical to our future success and rely on a combination of copyright, trademark, service mark and trade secret laws and contractual restrictions to establish and protect our proprietary rights in our products and services. We have entered into confidentiality and invention assignment agreements with our employees and certain contractors. We have also established non-disclosure agreements with our employees, strategic partners and some suppliers in order to limit access to and disclosure of our proprietary information.
In particular, we pursue the registration of our trademarks in each country in which we operate as well as in the United States, in the European Union, in China and in certain other strategic countries.
As part of our acquisition of certain subsidiaries of DeRemate.com Inc. (or “DeRemate”) and Classified Media Group, Inc. (or “CMG”), we acquired the trademarks of DeRemate and CMG, respectively, throughout the countries where they operated as well as certain other jurisdictions. We also own trademarks of Autoplaza.com.mx and Homeshop.com.mx in Mexico. Additionally, we operate online classified advertisements platforms dedicated to the sale of real estate in Chile through the Portal Inmobiliario brand and in Mexico through the Metros Cúbicos brand. In 2015, we acquired Metros Cúbicos (merged into MercadoLibre, S. de R.L. de C.V. since December 2016), company dedicated to the sale of real estate in Mexico, and KPL Soluções Ltda. (merged into Ebazar since August 2015), a company that develops ERP software for the e-commerce industry in Brazil, owners of Metros Cubicos and KPL trademarks, respectively. During 2016, we acquired Axado, a company that develops logistic software for the e-commerce industry in Brazil, owner of Axado trademark. Finally, in 2017 we acquired Ecommet Software Ltda., owner of the trademarks “Ecommet” and “Becommerce”, which is a company that develops e-commerce related software and provides consulting services related thereto in Brazil.
We have licensed in the past, and expect that we may license in the future, certain of our proprietary rights, such as trademarks or copyrighted material, to third parties. While we attempt to ensure that our licensees maintain the quality of the Mercado Libre brand, our licensees may take actions that could materially adversely affect the value of our proprietary rights or reputation.
Third parties have from time to time claimed, and others may claim in the future, that we have infringed their intellectual property rights by the content listing or the products offered on Mercado Libre. See “Item 3. Legal Proceedings” and “Item 1A. Risk factors—Risks related to our business—We could face legal and financial liability for the sale of items that infringe on the intellectual property and distribution rights of others and for information and material disseminated through our platforms” below. Additionally, we provide intellectual property rights owners with resources through our Brand Protection Program, to enforce their rights against questionable listings.
The following table shows the number of our employees by country at December 31, 2019:
Number of Employees
We manage operations in the remaining countries in which we have operations remotely from our headquarters in Argentina.
Our employees in Brazil are represented by an Information Technology Companies Labor Union in the State of São Paulo (“Sindicato dos Trabalhadores nas Empresas e Cursos de Informática do Estado de São Paulo”), some of our employees in Argentina are represented by the Commercial Labor Union (“Sindicato de Empleados de Comercio”) and our fulfillment employees in Argentina are represented by “Sindicato de Carga y Descarga” and some of our employees in Uruguay are represented by the Commercial Labor Union (“Federación Uruguaya de Empleados de Comercio y Servicios”). Unions or local regulations in other countries could also require that employees be represented. We consider our relations with our employees to be good and we implement a variety of human resources practices, programs and policies that are designed to hire, develop, compensate and retain our employees.
We are very proud of our employees and believe that our team is one of the most important assets of our Company. We believe that our employees are among the most knowledgeable in the Latin American high tech industry, and they have developed a deep understanding of our business and e-commerce in general. We believe we have been successful in attracting and retaining outstanding individuals over the years. Similarly, our future success will depend on our ability to continue to attract, develop and retain capable professionals. See “Item 1A. Risk Factors—Risks related to our business— We depend on key personnel, the loss of which could have a material adverse effect on us.”
We are subject to a variety of laws, decrees and regulations that affect companies conducting business on the Internet in some of the countries where we operate related to e-commerce, electronic payments, privacy, data protection, taxation (including value added taxes (“VAT”), or sales tax collection obligations), obligations to provide information to certain authorities about transactions occurring on our platform or about our users, anti money laundering regulations, transport regulations and other legislation which also applies to other companies conducting business in general. It is not clear how existing laws governing issues such as general commercial activities, property ownership, copyrights and other intellectual property issues, taxation, libel and defamation, obscenity, consumer protection, digital signatures and personal privacy apply to online businesses. Some of these laws were adopted before the Internet was available and, as a result, do not contemplate or address the unique issues of the Internet. Due to these areas of legal uncertainty, and the increasing popularity and use of the Internet and other online services, it is possible that new laws and regulations will be adopted with respect to the Internet or other online services. These regulations could cover a wide variety of issues, including, without limitation, online commerce, Internet service providers’ responsibility for third party content hosted in their servers, user privacy, electronic or mobile payments, freedom of expression, pricing, content and quality of products and services, taxation (including VAT or sales tax collection obligations, obligation to provide certain information about transactions that occurred through our platform, or about our users), advertising, intellectual property rights, consumer protection and information security.
Our Mercado Pago service is subject to regulation in the countries in which we operate, as described below:
Since 2013, we are subject to obligations in Brazil imposed on certain payment processing functions carried out by non-financial institutions. On November 1, 2018 we obtained the approval from the Central Bank of Brazil to operate as authorized payment institution, pursuant to its regulations and controls. The approval confirmed our ability to continue carrying out the payment processing functions.
With the Authorization, Mercado Pago in Brazil is subject to the supervision of the Central Bank of Brazil and must fully comply with all the obligations established in the current regulation, under penalty of (i) formal warning establishing a deadline for the remediation of non-compliance activity, (ii) pay penalties for non-compliance, or (iii) shut down our Mercado Pago business in Brazil for an indefinite period of time, which would be costly.
In November 2018, MercadoLibre, Inc., in accordance with Resoution 4.222, issued by the National Monetary Council (“CMN”), and Circulars 3.649 and 3.317, issued by the Central Bank of Brazil, filed with the Central Bank of Brazil an application for authorization to incorporate a financial institution in the modality of savings and loan associations (“Sociedade de Crédito Financiamento e Investimento – SCFI”), to be controlled by us. The purpose of this new company (which will be a financial institution in Brazil) will be to operate the activities related to the granting of Mercado Credito loans in a more efficient way and obtain better funding alternatives for the business. Currently, Mercado Credito loans in Brazil are carried out through correspondent banking agreements with partner financial institutions, since the direct provision of loans is restricted to financial institutions.
During 2014 and 2015, Colombia enacted regulations which established specific requirements to open accounts and provide certain payment services, as well as policies for cash and risk management. In 2018 Colombia enacted further regulations requiring payment processors such as Mercado Pago to comply with certain security, privacy and anti-money laundering standards.
Uruguay and Peru
Uruguay and Peru have also enacted regulations that cover a wide variety of issues related to electronic payments or e-money, including, among other things, rules related to the requirement to obtain authorization from the relevant authority to operate, offer or provide certain payment services. In September 2016, we obtained the registration of our Uruguayan subsidiary before the Central Bank of Uruguay as an entity entitled to provide services of payments and collections. Thus, on November 1, 2016 Mercado Pago was launched in Uruguay.
In 2017 and 2018, Chile enacted regulations regarding the issuance and operation of payment cards, which could affect Mercado Pago's operations, including authorization to operate, anti-money laundering obligations, capital requirements and reserve funds, operational and security safeguards, among others. We submitted applications to obtain licenses to act as a prepaid card issuer and payment card operator in June and December 2019, respectively, in accordance with the provisions of the regulations mentioned above.
In 2017, Mexico’s anti-competition regulatory commission began to investigate potential monopolistic practices across the e-commerce industry in an effort to ensure compliance with the Mexican anti-competition statute. As a market leader in the e-commerce industry in Mexico, we are complying fully with any inquries from the commission. We have not been named or implicated individually in any way.
In March 2018, Mexico enacted a new law that regulates both crowd-funders as well as providers of wallets and money transmittal services (the “Fintech Law”). Under the Fintech Law, institutions that provided the aforementioned services prior to its enactment are required to submitt an application to the Comisión Nacional Bancaria y de Valores (the Mexican National Banking Commission or the “CNBV”) to obtain a license, and may continue to provide those services while such license application is being procesed. Our Mexican subsidiary submitted an application to obtain such license in September 2019. The application is being currently processed by the CNBV.
In January 2020, the Central Bank of Argentina enacted regulations relating to the payments services providers that applies to the FinTech institutions that are not financial institutions but nevertheless, provide payment services in at least one of the processes of the payments system. According to this regulation, payments services providers must register by April 1, 2020, in a new registry of payments services providers created by the Central Bank of Argentina. The regulation sets forth certain specific rules related to (i) the provision of information to users; (ii) keep the funds of the users deposited in a freely available bank account; (iii) allow the users dispose immediately the funds accredited (iv) provide information relating to the business of payments processing.
We continue to develop Mercado Pago and, particularly, our peer-to-peer lending business we may need to secure governmental authorizations or licenses or comply with regulations applicable to financial institutions, electronic payments and/or anti-money laundering in the countries where we offer this service. In this regard, since November 2016 the Argentine subsidiary of the Company is registered before the Argentine anti-money laundering authority (“Unidad de Información Financiera”) as an entity subject to certain reporting obligations pursuant to anti-money laundering local regulations relating to the issuance of prepaid cards and, for 2020, card aggregator activities.
There are laws and regulations that address foreign currency and exchange rates in every country in which we operate. In certain countries where we operate, we need governmental authorization to pay invoices to a foreign supplier or send money abroad due to foreign exchange restrictions. See “Item 1A. Risk factors—Risks related to doing business in Latin America—Local currencies used in the conduct of our business are subject to depreciation, volatility and exchange controls” for more information.
We are also the beneficiary of certain tax regulations in various jurisdictions in which we operate.
The Argentine Ministry of Economy approved our main Argentina subsidiary as beneficiary of the Argentine Regime to promote the software industry. Benefits of receiving this status include a relief of 60% of total income tax related to software development activities and a 70% relief in payroll taxes related to software development activities. These tax benefits expired on December 31, 2019. A new law was enacted by Argentine government in June 2019 (knowledge-based economy promotional regime) which established new tax benefits as of January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2029 for certain companies that meet specific criteria. On January 20, 2020, a new resolution issued by Argentina’s Ministry of Productive Development suspended the application of the new regime until new provisions are issued. See Item 8 of Part II, “Financial Statements and Supplementary Data-Note 2-Summary of significant accounting policies-Income taxes.”
We are also subject to significant data protection and privacy-related regulations in many of the jurisdictions in which we operate. Further, some jurisdictions in which we operate are considering imposing additional restrictions or regulations.
In August 2018, Brazil approved its first comprehensive data protection law (“Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados Pessoais” or “LGPD”), which will be applicable from August 2020. In December 2018, the former President of Brazil issued Provisional Measure No. 869/2018 which makes some amended to the LGPD and importantly creates Brazil’s national data protection authority (the “ANDP”).
We have created a program to oversee the implementation of relevant changes to our business processes, compliance infrastructures and IT systems to reflect the new requirements and comply with LGPD by August 2020.
Segment and Geographic Information
For an analysis of financial information about our segments, see “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Reporting Segments and Geographic Information”, “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Description of Line Items—Net revenues” and Note 7, Segments to our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report and incorporated by reference in this Item 1.
We are a Delaware corporation incorporated on October 15, 1999. Our registered office is located at 874 Walker Road, Suite C, Dover, Delaware. Our principal executive offices are located at Arias 3751, 7th Floor, Buenos Aires, Argentina, C1430CRG.
Our Internet address is www.mercadolibre.com. Our investor relations website is investor.mercadolibre.com. We make available free of charge through our website our annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to the SEC. Our sustainability report is available on our investor relations website. Our Corporate Governance Guidelines, Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, and the charters of the Audit Committee, the Compensation and the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee are also available on our website and are available in print to any stockholder upon request in writing to MercadoLibre, Inc., Attention: Investor Relations, Arias 3751, 7th floor, Buenos Aires, Argentina, C1430CRG. Information on or connected to our website is neither part of nor incorporated into this report on Form 10-K or any other SEC filings we make from time to time.
Set forth below are the risks that we believe are material to our stockholders and prospective stockholders. You should carefully consider the following factors in evaluating our company, our properties and our business.
Risks related to our business
Our business depends on the continued growth of online commerce and the availability and reliability of the Internet in Latin America.
Online commerce is still a developing market in Latin America. Our future revenues depend substantially on Latin American consumers’ and providers’ widespread acceptance and continued use of the Internet as a way to conduct commerce and to carry out specific financial transactions. For us to grow our user base successfully, more consumers and providers must accept and use new ways of conducting business and exchanging information. The price of personal computers and/or mobile devices and Internet access may limit our potential growth in certain areas or countries with low levels of Internet penetration and/or high levels of poverty. The infrastructure for the Internet in Latin America may not be able to support continued growth in the number of Internet users, their frequency of use or their bandwidth requirements.
Availability, transaction speeds, acceptance, interest and use of the Internet are all critical to our growth and services and the occurrence of any one or more the above challenges to Internet usage could have a material adverse effect on our business.
We operate in a highly competitive and evolving environment.
The e-commerce and omnichannel retail, e-commerce services, and digital content and electronic devices industries are relatively new in Latin America, rapidly evolving and intensely competitive, and we expect competition to become more intense in the future. Barriers to entry are relatively low and current offline and new competitors, including small businesses who want to create and promote their own stores or platforms, can easily launch new sites at relatively low cost using software that is commercially available. MercadoLibre’s Marketplace currently competes with a number of companies, including traditional brick and mortar retailers, including a growing number of those that have launched online offerings; online sales and auction services; other small services, including those that serve specialty markets; business-to-consumer online commerce services; and shopping comparison sites located throughout Latin America.
In many cases, companies that directly or indirectly compete with us provide Internet access. These competitors include incumbent telephone companies, cable companies, mobile communications companies and large Internet service providers. Some of these providers may take measures that could degrade, disrupt, or increase the cost of customers’ use of our services. For example, they could restrict or prohibit the use of their lines for our services, filter, block or delay the packets containing the data associated with our products, charge increased fees to us or our users for use of their lines to provide our services, or seek to charge us for our customers’ use of our services or receipt of our e-mails. Although we have not identified any providers who intend to take these actions, any interference with our services or higher charges for access to the Internet, could cause us to lose existing users, impair our ability to attract new users, limit our potential expansion and harm our revenue and growth.
Mercado Pago competes with existing online and offline payment methods, including, among others, banks and other providers of financial services, particularly credit and debit cards, checks, money orders, and electronic bank deposits; international and local online payments services; the use of cash, which is often preferred in Latin America; and offline funding alternatives such as cash deposit and money transfer services, person-to-person payment services and mobile card readers. Some of these services may operate at lower commission rates than Mercado Pago’s current rates and, accordingly, we are subject to market pressures with respect to the commissions we charge for Mercado Pago services. Any or all of these companies could create competitive pressures, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our competitors may respond to new or emerging technologies and changes in customer requirements faster and more effectively. They may devote greater resources to the development, promotion, and sale of products and services. Competing services tied to established banks and other financial institutions may offer greater liquidity and create greater consumer confidence in the safety and efficacy of their services. Established banks and other financial institutions currently offer online payments and those which do not yet provide such a service could quickly and easily develop it, including mobile phone carriers.
Larger, more well-established and well-financed companies may also acquire, invest in or enter into commercial relationships with competing businesses. Therefore, some of our competitors and potential competitors may be able to devote greater resources to marketing and promotional campaigns, adopt more aggressive pricing policies and devote substantially more resources to website and systems development than us, which could adversely affect us.
Our future success depends on our ability to expand and adapt our operations to meet rapidly changing industry and technology standards in a cost-effective and timely manner. Such efforts to expand places, and is expected to continue to place, a significant strain on our management, operational and financial resources.
We plan to continue to expand our operations by expanding our services internationally and developing and promoting new and complementary services. We may not succeed at expanding our operations in a cost-effective or timely manner, and our expansion efforts may not have the same or greater overall market acceptance as our current services. Furthermore, any new business or service that we launch that is not favorably received by users could damage our reputation and diminish the value of our brands. Similarly, a lack of market acceptance of these services or our inability to generate satisfactory revenues from any expanded services to offset their cost could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We must constantly add new hardware, update software, enhance and improve our billing and transaction systems, and add and train new engineering and other personnel to accommodate the increased use of our website and the new products and features we regularly introduce. This upgrade process is expensive, and the increasing complexity and enhancement of our website results in higher costs. Failure to upgrade our technology, features, transaction processing systems, security infrastructure, or network infrastructure to accommodate increased traffic or transaction volume or the increased complexity of our website could materially harm our business.
Our revenues depend on prompt and accurate billing processes. Our failure to grow our transaction-processing capabilities to accommodate the increasing number of transactions that must be billed on our website would materially harm our business and our ability to collect revenue.
Furthermore, we may need to enter into relationships with various strategic partners, websites and other online service providers and other third parties necessary to our business. The increased complexity of managing multiple commercial relationships could lead to execution problems that can affect current and future revenues and operating margins. The expansion of our Mercado Pago business into new countries may also require a close commercial relationship with one or more local banks or other intermediaries, which may prevent, delay or limit the introductions of our services in such countries.
Our current and planned systems, procedures and controls, personnel and third party relationships may not be adequate to support our future operations. Our failure to manage growth effectively could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
The market in which we operate is rapidly evolving and we may not be able to maintain our profitability.
As a result of the emerging nature and related volatility of the markets and economies in the countries in which we compete, the increased variety of services offered on our website and the rapidly evolving nature of our business, it is particularly difficult for us to forecast our revenues or earnings accurately. In addition, we have no backlog and substantially all of our net revenues for each quarter are derived from listing fees, optional feature fees, up-front fees, final value fees, commissions on Mercado Pago payments, finance and interest fees, shipping fees and advertising that are earned during that quarter. Our current and future expense levels are based largely on our investment plans and estimates of future revenues and are, to a large extent, fixed. We may not be able to adjust spending in a timely manner to compensate for any unexpected revenue shortfall. Accordingly, any significant shortfall in revenues relative to our planned expenditures would have an immediate adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Any delay or problem with operating or upgrading our existing information technology infrastructure could cause a disruption in our business and adversely impact our financial results.
Our ability to operate our business on a day-to-day basis largely depends on the efficient operation of our information technology infrastructure and our cloud providers. We have been and are susceptible to hacking into our systems or other security breaches by unauthorized third parties. We are also susceptible to errors in connection with any systems upgrade or migration to a different hardware or software system, errors or incidents of our cloud providers, bugs or other problems for any of the software we use, either developed in-house or provided by third parties.
Most of our systems for operating the Mercado Libre ecosystem (Mercado Libre, Mercado Pago, Mercado Envíos, etc.) run on public cloud systems, in several locations around the United States to ensure high availability and backup locations. We also run some of our legacy systems on computer hardware located at the facilities of the Cyxtera Datacenters in Sterling, Virginia. These systems (whether over the public cloud or at the datacenter) and operations are vulnerable to damage or interruption from earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, fires, and other natural disasters, power loss, computer viruses, telecommunication failures, physical or electronic break-ins, sabotage, intentional acts of vandalism, terrorism, and similar events.
The public cloud provider could also decide to close the facilities. Our disaster recovery plan may not be sufficient. We are working on developing an alternate cloud provider of hosting services but we are in an early stage and our systems are not fully redundant. We may have inadequate insurance coverage to compensate for any related losses. Any errors, defects, disruptions, interruptions, delays or cessation of service could result in significant disruptions to our business that could ultimately be more expensive, time consuming, and resource intensive than anticipated. Defects or disruptions in our technology infrastructure could adversely impact our ability to process transactions on our site or fulfill shipments, which could reduce our revenue, adversely affect our reputation with, or result in the loss of, user and negatively impact our financial results
We are subject to extensive government regulation and oversight. Failure to comply with existing and future rules and regulations in the jurisdictions in which we operate could adversely affect the operations of one or more of our businesses in those jurisdictions.
Our business is subject to the laws, rules, regulations and policies in the countries in which we operate, as well as the legal interpretation of such regulations by administrative bodies and the judiciary of those countries. Furthermore, because our services are accessible worldwide and we facilitate sales of goods to users worldwide, certain foreign jurisdictions may claim that we are required to comply with their laws. The expansion of our business may also result in increased regulatory oversight and enforcement, as well as an claims by regulatory agencies and courts that we are required to obtain licenses to engage in certain business activity.
Enforcement of, failure, or perceived failure to comply with, laws, rules, regulations, policies or licensing requirements could result in criminal or civil lawsuits, penalties, fines, forfeiture of significant assets, an outright or partial restriction on our operations, enforcement in one or more jurisdictions, additional compliance and licensure requirements, and force us to change the way we or our users do business. Any changes in our or our users’ business methods could increase costs or reduce revenues or force us to prohibit listings of certain items for some locations.
The laws, rules, regulations and policies in the markets in which we operate include, but are not limited to, those governing internet regulation, privacy and user data protection, consumer protection, competition, banking, money transfer, domestic and cross-border electronic funds transfer, anti-money laundering, shipping, and the sale, storage and/or transportation of goods and services.
In addition, our operations in most of the countries where we operate are subject to risks related to compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other applicable U.S. and other local laws prohibiting corrupt payments to government officials and other third parties.
Many of the countries where we operate do not have specific laws governing the liability of Internet service providers, such as ourselves, for fraud, intellectual property infringement, by us our third-party users of our services or other illegal activities by third-party users of our services conducted over our platforms.
Existing laws, decrees and regulations in some of the countries where we operate related to e-commerce, electronic or mobile payments, information requirements for Internet providers, data collection, data protection, privacy, anti-money laundering, taxation (including VAT or sales tax witholdings), obligations to provide certain information to certain authorities about transactions which are processed through our platforms or about our users and those regulations applicable to consumer protection and businesses in general also may not specifically address how they are to be applied to our type of Internet-based operations.This legal uncertainty could negatively affect our clients’ perception and use of our services and could result in significant expense should we have to defend cases in an unclear legal environment. It is also possible that new laws and regulations will be adopted with respect to the Internet or other online services that could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operation and financial condition.
Privacy and user Data Protection
We are subject to laws relating to the collection, use, storage and transfer of personal data about our providers, employees and, principally, our users, especially regarding financial information. Several jurisdictions already have regulations in this area; and others are considering imposing additional restrictions or regulations. We expect this area of regulation to increase both in number and in the level of stringency. The entry into force of the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (“GDPR”) in the European Union prompted various Latin American countries to start a reform process of their local data protection regimes. Brazil, for instance, has sanctioned a comprehensive data protection regulation mirroring European Union laws. Should we fail to comply with these laws, either by infringing upon the rights of data subjects or in the transfer of personal data, where in many cases the law applies not only to our interactions with third-parties, but also to transfers of information amongst employees of our Company in the course of their work for us, our subsidiaries, and other parties with which we have commercial relations, we may be subject to significant penalties and negative publicity, which would adversely affect us.
Government and consumer protection agencies have in the past received a substantial number of complaints about both the Mercado Libre Marketplace and Mercado Pago. These complaints are small as a percentage of our total transactions, but they could become large in aggregate (absolut) numbers over time. From time to time, we are involved in disputes or regulatory inquiries that arise in the ordinary course of business. The number and significance of these disputes and inquiries have increased as our business has expanded. We are likely to receive new inquiries from regulatory agencies in the future, which may lead to actions against us. We have responded to inquiries from regulatory agencies and described our services and operating procedures and have provided requested information. If one or more of these agencies is not satisfied with our response to current or future inquiries, we could be subject to enforcement actions, injunctions, fines or penalties, or forced to change our operating practices in ways that could harm our business, or if during these inquiries any of our processes are found to violate any laws, or to constitute unfair business practices, we could be subject to civil damages, enforcement actions, fines or penalties. Such actions or fines could require us to restructure our business processes in ways that would harm our business and cause us to incur substantial costs.
We receive scrutiny from various governmental agencies under competition laws in the countries where we operate. Some jurisdictions also provide private rights of action for competitors or consumers to assert claims of anti-competitive conduct. Other companies or governmental agencies may allege that our actions violate antitrust or competition laws, or otherwise constitute unfair competition. Contractual agreements with buyers, sellers, or other companies could give rise to regulatory action or antitrust investigations or litigation. Also, our business practices could give rise to regulatory action or antitrust investigations or litigation. Some regulators may perceive our business to have such a degree of market power that otherwise uncontroversial business practices could be deemed anticompetitive. Such claims and investigations, even if without foundation, typically are very expensive to defend, involve negative publicity and substantial diversion of Management time and effort, and could result in significant judgments against us.
Banking, Money Transmission and Domestic or Cross-Border Electronic Funds Transfer
A number of jurisdictions where we operate have enacted legislation regulating money transmitters and/or electronic payments or funds transfers. We believe we do not require a license under the existing statutes of Argentina, Peru and Colombia to operate Mercado Pago in those countries with Mercado Pago’s current legal and business structure. If our operation of Mercado Pago were found to be in violation of money services laws or regulations or any tax regulations, or engaged in an unauthorized banking or financial business, we could be subject to liability, forced to cease doing business with residents of certain countries, or forced to change our business practices or to become a financial entity. Any change to our Mercado Pago business practices that makes the service less attractive to users or prohibits its use by residents of a particular jurisdiction could decrease the speed of trade on the Mercado Libre Marketplace, which would further harm our business. Even if we are not forced to change our Mercado Pago business practices, we could be required to obtain licenses or regulatory approvals that could be very expensive and time consuming, and we cannot assure that we would be able to obtain these licenses in a timely manner or at all.
We are already subject to regulation in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and Uruguay and could be subject in the short term to new regulations in Colombia, which would require us to obtain regulatory authorizations to operate certain services provided by Mercado Pago. The failure to obtain any such authorization, or the loss of the existing authorizations could cause us to (i) shut down our Mercado Pago business in the relevant jurisdiction for an indefinite period of time, which would be costly and time consuming, (ii) pay penalties for non-compliance or face other penalties such as the dismantling of Mercado Pago and/or (iii) limit the services we offer through Mercado Pago in the relevant jurisdiction or change our business practices, any of which could materially adversely affect our business and results of operations.
Mercado Pago is or may be subject to anti-money laundering laws and regulations that prohibit, among other things, its involvement in transferring the proceeds of criminal activities or impose obligations to provide certain information about transactions that have occurred in our platform, or about our users. Because laws and regulations differ in each of the jurisdictions where we operate, as we roll-out and adapt Mercado Pago in other countries, additional verification and reporting requirements could apply. These regulations could impose significant costs on us and make it more difficult for new customers to join the Mercado Pago network. Future regulation, may require us to learn more about the identity of our Mercado Pago customers before opening an account, to obtain additional verification of customers and to monitor our customers’ activities more closely. These requirements, as well as any additional restrictions imposed by credit card associations, could raise our Mercado Pago costs significantly and reduce the attractiveness of Mercado Pago. Failure to comply with anti-money laundering laws could result in significant criminal and civil lawsuits, penalties, and forfeiture of significant assets.
A number of jurisdictions where we operate have enacted legislation regulating shipping services. We believe we are not required to have a license under the existing statutes of Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Uruguay and Chile to operate Mercado Envios with its current structure. If Mercado Envios were found to be in violation of shipping services laws or regulations, or engaged in an unauthorized shipping business, we could be subject to liability, forced to cease doing business with residents of certain countries, or forced to change our business practices or to become a postal entity. Any change to our Mercado Envios business practices that makes the service less attractive to customers or prohibits its use by residents of a particular jurisdiction could decrease the speed of trade on the Mercado Libre Marketplace, which would further harm our business. Even if we are not forced to change our Mercado Envios business practices, we could be required to obtain licenses or regulatory approvals that could be very expensive and time consuming, and we cannot assure that we would be able to obtain these licenses in a timely manner or at all.
Sale, Storage and/or Transportation of Goods and Services
More specifically, we are aware that certain goods, such as alcohol, tobacco, firearms, animals, adult material and other goods that may be subject to regulation by local or national authorities of various jurisdictions have been traded on the Mercado Libre Marketplace. We have at times been and may continue to be subject to fines for certain users’ sales of products that have not been approved by the government. We are also aware that certain goods expressly excluded from our shipping services pursuant to our policies were stored in our fulfillment centers and/or delivered through third-party carriers providing services to Mercado Libre. We cannot provide any assurances that we will successfully avoid civil or criminal liability for unlawful activities that our users carry out on the occasion of the use of our services in the future. If we suffer potential liability for any unlawful activities of our users, we may need to implement additional measures to reduce our exposure to this liability, which may require, among other things, that we spend substantial resources and/or discontinue certain service offerings. Any costs that we incur as a result of this liability or asserted liability could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our business is based on an Internet platform for commercial and financial transactions in which almost all activity depends on our users and is therefore largely outside of our control.
Our business is mainly dependent on users listing and purchasing items and services on our platform, and using our online financial services. We mostly depend on the commercial and financial activity that our users generate. Except for our incipient first party business, we do not choose which items will be listed, nor do we make pricing or other decisions relating to the products and services bought and sold on our platform. Therefore, the principal drivers of our business are largely outside of our control, and we depend on the continued preference for our online services by millions of individual users.
We may be liable for or experience reputational damage from the failure of users of our Marketplace to deliver merchandise or make required payments.
Our success depends largely upon sellers accurately representing and reliably delivering the listed goods and buyers paying the agreed purchase price. We have received in the past, and anticipate that we will receive in the future, complaints from users who did not receive the purchase price or the goods agreed to be exchanged. While we can suspend the accounts of users who fail to fulfill their delivery obligations to other users, we do not have the ability to force users to make payments or deliver goods sold. We also receive complaints from buyers regarding the quality of the goods purchased or the partial or non-delivery of purchased items. We have tried to reduce our liability to buyers for unfulfilled transactions or other claims related to the quality of the purchased goods by offering a free Buyer Protection Program to buyers who meet certain conditions. We may in the future receive additional requests from users requesting reimbursement or threatening legal action against us if we do not reimburse them, the result of which could materially adversely affect our business and financial condition. In addition, we may be liable in Brazil under applicable regulation for fraud committed by sellers and losses incurred by buyers when purchasing items through our platform in Brazil. We have expanded the coverage of our Buyer’s Protection Program and this coverage expansion may impact the number and amount of reimbursements we are required to make. Effective customer service requires significant personnel expense and investment in developing programs and technology infrastructure to help customer service representatives carry out their functions. These expenses, if not managed properly, could significantly impact our profitability. Failure to manage or train our customer service representatives properly could compromise our ability to handle customer complaints effectively. If we do not handle customer complaints effectively, our reputation may suffer and we may lose our customers’ confidence.
Any litigation related to unpaid or undelivered purchases or defective items could be expensive for us, divert Management’s attention and could result in increased costs of doing business. In addition, any negative publicity generated as a result of the fraudulent or deceptive conduct of any of our users could damage our reputation, diminish the value of our brands and negatively impact our results of operations.
We could face legal and financial liability for the sale of items that infringe on the intellectual property and distribution rights of others and for information and material disseminated through our platforms.
It is also possible that third parties could bring claims against us for defamation, libel, invasion of privacy, negligence, or other theories based on the nature and content of the materials disseminated through our platforms, particularly materials disseminated by our users. Other online services companies are facing several lawsuits for this type of liability. If we or other online services providers are held liable or potentially liable for information carried on or disseminated through our platforms, we may have to implement measures to reduce our exposure to this liability. Any measures we may need to implement may involve spending substantial resources and/or discontinuing certain services. Any costs that we incur as a result of liability or asserted liability could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. In addition, public attention to liability issues, lawsuits and legislative proposals could impact the growth of Internet usage, and subsequently have a negative impact on our business results.
Fraudulent activity by our users could negatively impact our operating results, brand and reputation and cause the use of services to decrease.
We are subject to the risk of fraudulent activity on our platforms by our users. Although we have implemented measures to detect and reduce the occurrence of fraudulent activities, combat bad buyer experiences and increase buyer satisfaction, there can be no assurance that these measures will be sufficient to accurately detect, prevent or deter fraud. As our marketplace sales grow, the cost of remediating for fraudulent activity, including customer reimbursements, may materially increase and could negatively affect our operating results. In addition, users may perform frauds or potential illegal activities when using any platform we operate which could expose us to civil or criminal liability and could affect our financial performance. Although we have not experienced any material business or reputational harm as a result of fraudulent or potential illegal activities of our users in the past, we cannot rule out the possibility that any of the foregoing may occur causing harm to our business or reputation in the future. If any of the foregoing were to occur, our results of operations and financial conditions could be materially and adversely affected.
Mercado Pago is susceptible to potentially illegal or improper uses, including, fraudulent and illicit sales, money laundering, bank fraud and online securities fraud. In addition, Mercado Pago’s service could be subject to unauthorized credit card use, identity theft, break-ins to withdraw account balances, employee fraud or other internal security breaches, and we may be required to reimburse customers for any funds stolen as a result of such breaches. Merchants could also request reimbursement, or stop using Mercado Pago, if they are affected by buyer fraud.
We incur losses from claims of customers who did not authorize a purchase, from buyer fraud and from erroneous transmissions. In addition to the direct costs of such losses, if they are related to credit card transactions and become excessive, they could result in Mercado Pago losing the right to accept credit cards for payment. If Mercado Pago is unable to accept credit cards, our business will be adversely affected given that credit cards are the most widely used method for funding Mercado Pago accounts. We have taken measures to detect and reduce the risk of fraud on Mercado Pago, such as running card security code (“CSC”) checks in some countries, requiring users to answer personal questions to confirm their identity, requiring users to confirm small debit amounts prior to authorizing high risk transactions, implementing caps on overall spending per users and data mining to detect potentially fraudulent transactions. However, these measures may not be effective against current and new forms of fraud. If these measures do not succeed, excessive charge-backs may arise in the future and our business will be adversely affected.
Our users may be the target of “phishing” emails or other intrusions that could subject us to investigations or liability.
Our users have been and will continue to be targeted by parties using fraudulent “spoof” and “phishing” emails that appear to be legitimate emails sent by Mercado Libre or Mercado Pago or by a user of one of our businesses, but direct recipients to fake websites operated by the sender of the email or misstates that certain payment was credited in Mercado Pago and request that the recipient send the product sold or send a password or other confidential information. Despite our efforts to mitigate “spoof” and “phishing” emails, those activities could damage our reputation and diminish the value of our brands or discourage use of our websites and increase our costs. We have received in the past, and anticipate that we will receive in the future, claims from users who received spoof emails and sent the product and did not receive the purchase price.
We are subject to security breaches or other confidential data theft from our systems, which can adversely affect our reputation and business.
A significant risk associated with e-commerce and communications is the secure transmission of confidential information over public networks. Currently, the majority of MercadoLibre users authorize us to bill their credit card accounts or debit their bank accounts directly, or use Mercado Pago to pay for their transactions. Our business involves the collection, storage, processing and transmission of customers’ personal data, including financial information. We rely on encryption and authentication necessary to provide the security and authentication technology to transmit confidential information securely, including customer credit card numbers and other account information. Advances in computer capabilities, new discoveries in the field of cryptography, or other events or developments may result in a compromise or breach of the technology that we use to protect customer transaction data.
The techniques used to obtain unauthorized, improper or illegal access to our systems, our data or our customers’ data, to disable or degrade service, or to sabotage systems are constantly evolving, may be difficult to detect quickly, and often are not recognized until launched against a target. Unauthorized parties have and may continue to attempt to gain access to our systems or facilities through various means, including, among others, hacking into our systems or those of our customers, partners or vendors, or attempting to fraudulently induce our employees, customers, partners, vendors or other users of our systems into disclosing user names, passwords, payment card information or other sensitive information, which may in turn be used to access our information technology systems. Although we have developed systems and processes that are designed to protect our data and customer data and to prevent data loss and other security breaches, these security measures cannot provide absolute security. Our information technology and infrastructure have and may continue to be vulnerable to cyberattacks or security breaches, and third parties may be able to access our customers’ personal or proprietary information and card data that are stored on or accessible through those systems. Our security measures may also be breached due to human error, malfeasance, system errors or vulnerabilities, or other irregularities.
Actual or perceived vulnerabilities or data breaches may lead to claims sanctions against us, and may compromise our reputation. We also expect to spend significant additional resources to protect against security or privacy breaches, and may be required to address problems caused by breaches. Additionally, while we maintain insurance policies, our current insurance policies may not be adequate to reimburse us for losses caused by security breaches, and we may not be able to collect fully, if at all, under these insurance policies. Some of our systems have experienced past security breaches and, although they did not have a material adverse effect on our operating results or reputation, there can be no assurance of a similar result in the future. We cannot assure you that our security measures will prevent security breaches or that failure to prevent them will not have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and reputation. In addition, any breaches of network or data security at our customers, partners or vendors could have similar negative effects.
Our revenues depend substantially on final value fees, up-front fees, fees related to our payment solution and credits business, shipping and advertising fees, and such revenues may decrease if market conditions force us to lower such fees or if we fail to diversify our sources of revenue.
Our revenues currently depend primarily on final value fees, up-front fees, fees related to our payment solution and credits business and shipping and advertising fees. If market conditions force us to substantially lower our mentioned fees or if we fail to continue to attract new buyers and sellers, and if we are unable to effectively diversify and expand our sources of revenue, our profitability, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected
We are subject to consumer trends and could lose revenue if certain items become less popular.
Our future revenues depend on continued demand for the types of goods that users list on the Mercado Libre Marketplace or pay with Mercado Pago on or off the Mercado Libre Marketplace. The popularity of certain categories of items, such as computer and electronic products, cellular telephones, toys, apparel and sporting goods, among consumers may vary over time due to perceived availability, subjective value, and trends of consumers and society in general. A decline in the demand for or popularity of certain items sold through the Mercado Libre Marketplace without an increase in demand for different items could reduce the overall volume of transactions on our platforms, resulting in reduced revenues.
In addition, certain consumer “fads” may temporarily inflate the volume of certain types of items listed on the Mercado Libre Marketplace, placing a significant strain on our infrastructure and transaction capacity. These trends may also cause significant fluctuations in our operating results from one quarter to the next.
Manufacturers may limit distribution of their products by dealers, prevent dealers from selling through us or encourage governments to limit e-commerce.
Manufacturers may attempt to enforce minimum resale price maintenance arrangements to prevent distributors from selling on our websites or on the Internet generally, or at prices that would make our site attractive relative to other alternatives. Increased competition or anti-Internet distribution policies could result in reduced operating margins, loss of market share and diminished value of our brand. In order to respond to changes in the competitive environment, we may, from time to time, make pricing, service or marketing decisions or acquisitions that may be controversial with and lead to dissatisfaction among some of our sellers, which could reduce activity on our websites and harm our profitability.
Inventory risk may adversely affect our operating results.
We are exposed to inventory risks that may adversely affect our operating results because of seasonality, new product launches, quick changes in product cycles and pricing, defective products, changes in user demand and user spending patterns, changes in consumer tastes with respect to our products, spoilage, and other factors. We strive to predict these trends, as overstocking or understocking products we sell could lead to lower sales, missed opportunities, and excessive markdowns, each of which could have a material impact on our business and operating results. Moreover, once we launch a new product, it may be difficult to determine appropriate product selection, and accurately forecast demand which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Our failure to manage Mercado Pago and Mercado Fondo users’ funds properly would harm our business.
Our ability to manage and account accurately for Mercado Pago and Mercado Fondo users’ funds requires a high level of internal controls. As Mercado Pago and Mercado Fondo continue to grow, we must strengthen our internal controls accordingly. Mercado Pago and Mercado Fondo’s success requires significant consumer confidence in our ability to handle large and growing transaction volumes and amounts of customer funds. Any failure to maintain necessary controls or to properly manage customer funds could severely reduce customer use of Mercado Pago and Mercado Fondo.
We rely on banks or payment processors to fund transactions, and changes to credit card association fees, rules or practices may adversely affect our business.
Mercado Pago is not currently entitled to belong to or directly access credit and debit card associations. As a result, we must rely on banks or payment processors to process the funding of Mercado Pago transactions and Mercado Libre Marketplace collections, and must pay a fee for this service. From time to time, card associations may increase the interchange fees they charge for each transaction using one of their cards. The card processors of Mercado Pago and the Mercado Libre Marketplace have the right to pass any increases in interchange fees on to us as well as increase their own fees for processing. These increased fees increase the operating costs of Mercado Pago, reduce our profit margins from Mercado Pago operations and, to a lesser degree, affect the operating margins of the Mercado Libre Marketplace.
We are also required by processors to comply with card association operating rules. The card associations and their member banks set and interpret the card rules. Some of those member banks compete with Mercado Pago. Card companies could adopt new operating rules or re-interpret existing rules that we or Mercado Pago’s processors might find difficult or even impossible to follow. As a result, we could lose our ability to provide Mercado Pago customers the option of using debit or credit cards to fund their payments and MercadoLibre users the option to pay their fees using a debit or credit card. If Mercado Pago were unable to accept credit cards, our Mercado Pago business would be materially adversely affected.
We could lose the right to accept credit cards or pay fines if card processors determine that users are using Mercado Pago to engage in illegal or “high risk” activities or if users generate a large amount of chargebacks. Accordingly, we are continually working to prevent “high risk” merchants from using Mercado Pago. Additionally, we may be unable to access financing in the credit and capital markets at reasonable rates to fund our Mercado Pago operations and for that reason our profitability and total payments volume could materially decline.
The failure of the financial institutions with which we conduct business may have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition.
If the condition of the financial services industry deteriorates or becomes weakened for an extended period of time, any of the following factors could have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results, and financial condition:
Disruptions to the capital markets or the banking system may materially adversely affect the value of investments or bank deposits we currently consider safe or liquid. We may be unable to find suitable alternative investments that are safe, liquid, and provide a reasonable return. This could result in lower interest income or longer investment horizons;
We may be required to increase the installment and financing fees we charge to customers for purchases made in installments or cease offering installment purchases altogether, each of which may result in a lower volume of transactions completed;
We may be unable to access financing in the credit and capital markets at reasonable rates in the event we find it desirable to do so. Due to the nature of our Mercado Pago and Mercado Libre Marketplace businesses, we generate high account receivable, consumer and merchant loan, and consumer credit balances that we typically sell to financial institutions, and accordingly, lack of access to credit or significant changes to the terms of any existing credit, or bank liquidations could cause us to experience severe difficulties; and
The failure of financial institution counterparties to honor their obligations to us under credit instruments could jeopardize our ability to rely on and benefit from those instruments. Our ability to replace those instruments on the same or similar terms may be limited under difficult market conditions.
A rise in interest rates may negatively affect our Mercado Pago payment volume.
In each of Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Uruguay and Peru we offer users the ability to pay for goods purchased in installments using Mercado Pago. In 2019 and 2018, installment payments represented 51.8% and 66.5%, respectively, of Mercado Pago’s total payment volume. To facilitate the offer of the installment payment feature, we pay interest to discount credit card coupons or we securitize credit card coupons through trusts. In all of these cases, if interest rates increase, we may have to raise the installment fees we charge to users which would likely have a negative effect on Mercado Pago’s total payment volume.
Changes in Mercado Pago’s funding mix could adversely affect Mercado Pago’s results.
Mercado Pago pays significant transaction fees when customers fund payment transactions using certain credit cards, PagoMisCuentas and Pago Fácil, nominal fees when customers fund payment transactions from their bank accounts in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, and no fees when customers fund payment transactions from an existing Mercado Pago account balance. Senders funded 71.3% and 72.8% of Mercado Pago’s payment volume using credit cards during 2019 and 2018, respectively (either in a single payment or in installments), and Mercado Pago’s financial success will remain highly sensitive to changes in the rate at which its senders fund payments using credit cards. Customers may prefer credit card funding rather than bank account transfers for a number of reasons, including the ability to pay in installments in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, the ability to dispute and reverse charges if merchandise is not delivered or is not as described, the ability to earn frequent flyer miles or other incentives offered by credit cards, the ability to defer payment, or a reluctance to provide bank account information to us. Also, in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, senders may prefer to pay by credit card without using installments to avoid the associated financial costs resulting in lower revenues to us.
Changes in Mercado Pago’s ticket mix could adversely affect Mercado Pago’s results.
The transaction fees Mercado Pago pays in connection with certain payment methods are fixed regardless of the ticket price, and certain costs incurred in connection with the processing of credit card transactions are also fixed. Currently, Mercado Pago charges a fee calculated as a percentage of each transaction. If Mercado Pago receives a larger percentage of low ticket transactions, our profit margin may erode, or we may need to raise prices, which, in turn, may affect the volume of transactions.
Our Mercado Credito solution exposes us to additional risks.
Our Mercado Credito solution is offered to certain merchants and consumers, and the financial success of this product depends on the effective management of the credit related risk. To assess the credit risk of a merchant and/or consumer seeking a loan under the Mercado Credito solution, we use, among other indicators, a risk model internally developed, as a credit quality indicator to help predict the merchants and/or consumer’s ability to repay the principal balance and interest related to the credit. This risk model may not accurately predict the creditworthiness of a merchant and/or consumer due to inaccurate assumptions about the particular merchant and/or consumer or the economic environment or limited product history, among other factors. The accuracy of the risk model and our ability to manage credit risk related to our Mercado Credito solution may also be affected by legal or regulatory changes (e.g., bankruptcy laws and minimum payment regulations), competitors’ actions, changes in consumer behavior, obtain funding resources, changes in the economic environment and other factors.
Like other businesses with significant exposure to credit losses, we face the risk that Mercado Credito merchants and consumers will default on their payment obligations, making the receivables uncollectible and creating the risk of potential charge-offs.
The funding and growth of our Mercado Credito business is directly related to interest rates; a rise in interest rates may negatively affect our Mercado Credito business and results of operations.
We face significant risks related to our logistics network.
In Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Uruguay and Chile, we offer users our Mercado Envios shipping service through integration with local carriers. To achieve economies of scale, drive down shipping costs and eliminate friction for buyers and sellers, we generally pay local carriers directly for their shipping costs, and then we decide how much of those costs we transfer to our customers. If shipping costs increase, we may have to raise the shipping fees we charge to users which may have a negative effect on Mercado Envios’s shipping volume.
If we cannot pass on these increased fees to our customers, the resulting increase in operating costs of Mercado Envios could generate net losses in our Enhanced Marketplace operations.
We rely on local carriers to develop our shipping service.
If the services of local carriers are not available to us because of unfavorable contractual or commercial terms or for any other reason (i.e. trackers’ strike), we could lose our ability to provide shipping services to our customers, which could in turn have a material adverse effect on our shipping service, operating results, and financial condition.
Failure to successfully operate our fulfillment network may also negatively affect our business.
Through our logistics solution, Mercado Envios, we offer sellers on our platform fulfillment and warehousing services. If we do not adequately estimate customer demand to operate our fulfillment network successfully, it could result in excess or insufficient fulfillment capacity or result in increased costs. As we continue to add fulfillment centers, our fulfillment network may become more complex, and the operation of such centers may present significant challenges. Further, in connection with our fulfillment network service, we maintain the inventory of third parties that sell products through our platform, which increases the complexity of tracking inventory and operating our fulfillment network. Our failure to accurately forecast customer demand and properly handle inventory could result in unexpected costs and materially adversely affect our reputation or results of operations. Moreover, our ability to receive the inventory of third parties efficiently and ship orders to customers also may be negatively affected by natural or man-made disasters, extreme weather, geopolitical events and security issues, labor or trade disputes, and similar events which could have a material adverse effect on our shipping service, operating results, and financial condition.
We may not be able to adequately protect and enforce our intellectual property rights. We could potentially face claims alleging that our technologies infringe the property rights of others.
We regard the protection of our intellectual property rights as critical to our future success and rely on a combination of copyright, trademark and trade secret laws and contractual restrictions to establish and protect our proprietary rights in our products and services. We have entered into confidentiality and invention assignment agreements with our employees and certain contractors, and non-disclosure agreements with our employees and certain suppliers and strategic partners in order to limit access to and disclosure of our proprietary information. We cannot assure you that these contractual arrangements or the other steps that we have taken or will take in the future to protect our intellectual property will prove sufficient to prevent misappropriation of our technology, prevent counterfeit sale of our products, or deter independent third-parties from developing similar or competing technologies.
We pursue the registration of our intangible assets in each country where we operate, in the United States and in certain other countries worldwide. Effective intellectual property protection may not be available or granted to us by the appropriate regulatory authority in every country in which our services are made available online. We cannot assure you that we will always succeed in obtaining the intellectual property protection we need. If we are not successful, MercadoLibre’s ability to protect its brands in against third-party infringers would be compromised and we could face claims by any future trademark owners. Any claims relating to these issues, whether meritorious or not, could cause us to enter into costly royalty and/or licensing agreements. If any of these claims against us are successful we may also have to modify our brand name in certain countries. Any of these circumstances could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We have licensed in the past, and expect that we may license in the future, certain of our proprietary rights, such as trademarks or copyrighted material, to third parties. While we attempt to ensure that our licensees maintain the quality of the Mercado Libre brand, our licensees may take actions that could affect the value of our proprietary rights or reputation, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
To date, we have not been notified that our technology or products infringes on the proprietary rights of third parties, but third parties may claim infringement on our part with respect to past, current or future technologies or features of our services or of our products. We expect that participants in our markets will be increasingly subject to infringement claims as the number of services and competitors in the e-commerce segment grows. Any of these claims could be expensive and time consuming to litigate or settle and could have a material adverse effect upon our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We may not be able to secure licenses for technologies on which we rely.
We rely on certain technologies that we license from third parties that supply key database technology, operating system and specific hardware components for our services. We cannot assure you that these technology licenses will continue to be available to us on commercially reasonable terms. If we were not able to make use of this technology, we would need to obtain substitute technology that may be of lower quality or performance standards or at greater cost, which could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. Although we generally have been able to renew or extend the terms of contractual arrangements with these service providers on acceptable terms, we cannot assure you that we will continue to be able to do so in the future.
Problems that affect our service providers could potentially adversely affect us as well.
A number of parties provide services to us or to our users. These services include the hosting of our servers, shipping and the postal and payments infrastructures that allow users to deliver and pay for goods and services, in addition to paying their Mercado Libre Marketplace bills. Financial, regulatory, or other problems that might prevent these companies from providing services to us or our users could reduce the number of listings on our websites or make completing transactions on our websites more difficult, which would harm our business. Any security breach at one of these companies could also affect our customers and harm our business.
We may not realize benefits from recent or future strategic acquisitions of businesses, technologies, services or products despite their costs in cash and dilution to our stockholders.
We intend to continue to acquire businesses, technologies, services or products, as appropriate opportunities arise. We may not, however, be able to identify, negotiate or finance such future acquisitions successfully or at favorable valuations, or to effectively integrate these acquisitions with our current business. The process of integrating an acquired business, technology, service or product into our business may result in unforeseen operating difficulties and expenditures. Moreover, future acquisitions may also generate unforeseen pressures and/or strains on our organizational culture.
Acquisitions could result in potentially dilutive issuances of equity securities, the incurrence of debt, contingent liabilities and/or amortization expenses related to goodwill and other intangible assets, which could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. Any future acquisitions of other businesses, technologies, services or products might require us to obtain additional equity or debt financing, which might not be available on favorable terms, or at all. If debt financing for potential future acquisitions is unavailable, we may determine to issue shares of our common stock or preferred stock in connection with such an acquisition and any such issuance could result in the dilution of our common stock.
We depend on key personnel, the loss of which could have a material adverse effect on us.
Our performance depends substantially on the continued services and on the performance of our senior management and other key personnel. Our ability to retain and motivate these and other officers and employees is fundamental to our performance.
Our future success also depends on our ability to identify, attract, hire, train, retain and motivate other highly skilled technical, managerial, marketing and customer service personnel. Competition for these personnel is intense, and we cannot assure you that we will be able to successfully attract and retain sufficiently qualified personnel.
We may have inadequate business insurance coverage, which would require us to spend significant resources in the event of a disruption of our services or other contingency.
Even though we have business insurance coverage to face a disruption of our services, it may be inadequate to compensate for our losses. Any business disruption, litigation, system failure or natural disaster may cause us to incur substantial costs and divert resources, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operation and financial condition.
Risks related to doing business in Latin America
The success of other e-commerce companies is not an indication of our future financial performance, in part because of the markets in which we operate.
Several companies that operate e-commerce websites have been successful and profitable in the past. However, we operate in a business environment in Latin America that is different than the environment in which other e-commerce companies operate. These differences include the smaller size of the national markets, lower Internet adoption rates, lower confidence in remote payment mechanisms, less reliable postal and parcel services, and less predictable political, economic regulatory and legal environments. You should not interpret the success of any of these companies as indicative of our financial prospects.
We face the risk of political and economic crises, instability, terrorism, civil strife, labor conflicts, expropriation and other risks of doing business in emerging markets.
We conduct our operations in emerging market countries in Latin America. Economic and political developments in these countries, including future economic changes or crises (such as inflation, currency devaluation or recession), government deadlock, political instability, terrorism, civil strife, changes in laws and regulations, labor conflicts, expropriation or nationalization of property, and exchange controls could impact our operations or the market value of our common stock and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our employees in Brazil and some of our employees in Argentina and Uruguay are currently represented by a labor union and employees in other Latin American countries may eventually become unionized. We may incur increased payroll costs and reduced flexibility under labor regulations if unionization in other countries were to occur, any of which may negatively impact our business. In addition, we could be affected by conflicts between unions which claim representation of our employees that could generate additional payroll costs and labor conflicts.
Although economic conditions may differ from one country to another, we cannot assure you that events in one country alone will not adversely affect our business, financial condition or the market value of our common stock.
Latin American governments have exercised and continue to exercise significant influence over the economies of the countries where we operate. This involvement, as well as political and economic conditions, could adversely affect our business.
Governments in Latin America frequently intervene in the economies of their respective countries and occasionally make significant changes in policy and regulations. Governmental actions to control inflation and other policies and regulations have often involved, among other measures, price controls, currency devaluations, capital controls and limits on imports. Our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects may be adversely affected by changes in government policies or regulations, including such factors as: exchange rates and exchange control policies; inflation rates; interest rates; tariff and inflation control policies; price control policies; import duties and restrictions; liquidity of domestic capital and lending markets; electricity rationing; tax policies, including royalty, tax increases and retroactive tax claims; and other political, diplomatic, social and economic developments in or affecting the countries where we operate. Controls and any future changes to the legal and regulatory framework of the countries in which we operate, could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Reduced foreign investment in any of the countries where we operate may have a negative impact on such country’s economy, affecting interest rates and the ability of companies such as ours to access financial markets.
Latin America has experienced adverse economic conditions.
Latin American countries have historically experienced uneven periods of economic growth, as well as recession, periods of high inflation and economic instability. Currently, as a consequence of adverse economic conditions in global markets and lower commodity prices and demand for commodities, many Latin American economies have slow rates of growth, and some have entered recessions. The duration and severity of this slowdown is hard to predict and could adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations. Additionally, certain countries have experienced or are currently experiencing severe economic crises, which may still have future effects.
Local currencies used in the conduct of our business are subject to depreciation, volatility and exchange controls.
The currencies of many countries in Latin America, including Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, which together accounted for 95.5% and 93.9% of our net revenues for 2019 and 2018, respectively, have experienced volatility in the past. Currency movements, as well as higher interest rates, have materially and adversely affected the economies of many Latin American countries, including countries which account, or are expected to account, for a significant portion of our revenues. The depreciation of local currencies creates inflationary pressures that may have an adverse effect on us and generally restricts access to the international capital markets. For example, the devaluation of the Argentine Peso has had a negative impact on the ability of Argentine businesses to service their foreign currency denominated liabilities, led to high inflation, significantly reduced real wages, had a negative impact on businesses whose success is dependent on domestic market demand, and adversely affected the government’s ability to service its foreign debt obligations. On the other hand, the appreciation of local currencies against the U.S. dollar may lead to the deterioration of public accounts and the balance of payments of the countries where we operate, and may reduce export growth in those countries.
Certain of our subsidiaries may be subject to exchange control regulations that might restrict their ability to convert local currencies into U.S. dollars. In Argentina, distribution of dividends abroad is allowed under certain limits and as long as certain requirements are met. In addition, Brazilian law provides that whenever there is a serious imbalance in Brazil’s balance of payments or reason to foresee a serious imbalance, the Brazilian government may impose temporary restrictions on the remittance to foreign investors of the proceeds of their investments in Brazil.
Exchange controls implemented by the Argentine Government on the acquisition of U.S. dollars and other foreign currencies could have a material adverse impact on our operations, business, financial condition and results of operations
The Argentine government has implemented certain measures that control and restrict the ability of companies and individuals to exchange Argentine Pesos for foreign currencies. Those measures include, among other things, the requirement to obtain the prior approval from the Argentine Central Bank, which could eventually restrict the ability to exchange Argentine pesos for other currencies, such as U.S. dollars. Moreover, restrictions also currently apply to the acquisition of any foreign currency for holding as cash within Argentina. Additionally, the Argentine government implemented a new tax with a rate of 30% on certain transactions involving the acquisition of foreign currency.
There can be no assurance that the Central Bank of Argentina or other government agencies will not increase such controls or restrictions, make modifications to these regulations or establish more severe restrictions on currency exchange, which could affect the ability to make payments to foreign creditors or providers and dividend payments to foreign shareholders. These exchange controls and restrictions could materially adversely affect the business, financial condition and results of operations of our Argentine subsidiary and could significantly impact our ability to comply our foreign currency obligations, each of which could have a material adverse effect on our Company.
Our reporting currency is the U.S. dollar but our revenues are generated in the currencies of each country where we operate. Therefore, if the U.S. dollar strengthens relative to these foreign currencies, the economic value of our revenues in U.S. dollar terms will decline.
Because we conduct our business outside the United States and receive almost all of our revenues in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, but report our results in U.S. dollars, we face exposure to adverse movements in currency exchange rates. The currencies of certain countries where we operate, including most notably Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, have historically experienced significant devaluations. The results of operations in the countries where we operate are exposed to foreign exchange rate fluctuations as the financial results of the applicable subsidiaries are translated from the local currency into U.S. dollars upon consolidation. If the U.S. dollar weakens against foreign currencies, as has occurred in some years, the translation of these foreign-currency-denominated transactions will result in increased net revenues, operating expenses, and net income. Similarly, our net revenues, operating expenses, and net income will decrease if the U.S. dollar strengthens against the foreign currencies of countries in which we operate. For the year ended December 31, 2019, 63.6% of our net revenues were denominated in Brazilian Reais, 19.9% in Argentine Pesos and 12.0% in Mexican Pesos.
Our business, results of operations and financial condition are particularly sensitive to adverse developments in the Argentine economy.
Our results of operations and financial condition are particularly sensitive to business and economic conditions in Argentina. A significant part of our operations are conducted in Argentina, where our costs are incurred, for the most part, in Argentine Pesos.
In recent years, Argentina’s foreign debt rating has been downgraded on multiple occasions based on concerns regarding economic conditions and rising fears of increased inflationary pressures. This uncertainty may also adversely impact Argentina’s ability to attract capital.
The increasing level of inflation in Argentina has generated pressure for further depreciation of the Argentine Peso, which depreciated against the U.S. dollar by an approximately average of 41.1% in 2018 and 41.7% in 2019. If the current Argentine government is unable to address Argentina’s structural inflationary imbalances, the prevailing high rates of inflation may continue, which would have an adverse effect on Argentina’s economy.
Inflation in Argentina could increase our costs of operations and impact our financial condition and results of operations. Inflation rates may continue to increase in the future, and the effects and effectiveness of government measures to control inflation, adopted presently or in the future, remains uncertain.
Inflation and certain government measures to curb inflation may have adverse effects on the economies of the countries where we operate, our business and our operations.
Most Latin American countries have historically experienced high rates of inflation. Inflation and some measures implemented to curb inflation have had significant negative effects on the economies of Latin American countries. Governmental actions taken in an effort to curb inflation, coupled with speculation about possible future actions, have contributed to economic uncertainty over the years in most Latin American countries. The Latin American countries where we operate may experience high levels of inflation in the future that could lead to further government intervention in the economy, including the introduction of government policies that could adversely affect our results of operations. In addition, if any of these countries experience high rates of inflation, particularly in Argentina, which was determined to be highly inflationary, we may not be able to adjust the price of our services sufficiently to offset the effects of inflation on our cost structures. A return to a high inflation environment would also have negative effects on the level of economic activity and employment and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
E-commerce transactions in Latin America may be impeded by the lack of secure payment methods.
Unlike in the United States, consumers and merchants in Latin America can be held fully liable for credit card and other losses due to third-party fraud. As secure methods of payment for e-commerce transactions have not been widely adopted in Latin America, both consumers and merchants generally have a relatively low confidence level in the integrity of e-commerce transactions. In addition, many banks and other financial institutions have generally been reluctant to give merchants the right to process online transactions due to these concerns about credit card fraud. Unless consumer fraud laws in Latin American countries are modified to protect e-commerce merchants and consumers, and until secure, integrated online payment processing methods are fully implemented across the region, our ability to generate revenues from e-commerce may be limited, which could have a material adverse effect on our Company.
Risks related to our shares
Provisions of our certificate of incorporation and Delaware law could inhibit others from acquiring us, prevent a change of control, and may prevent efforts by our stockholders to change our management.
Certain provisions of our certificate of incorporation and by-laws may inhibit a change of control that our board of directors does not approve or changes in the composition of our board of directors, which could result in the entrenchment of current management.
These provisions include:
advance notice requirements for stockholder proposals and director nominations;
a staggered board of directors;
limitations on the ability of stockholders to remove directors other than for cause;
limitations on the ability of stockholders to own and/or exercise voting power over 20% of our common stock;
limitations on the ability of stockholders to amend, alter or repeal our by-laws;
the inability of stockholders to act by written consent;
the authority of the board of directors to adopt a stockholder rights plan;
the authority of the board of directors to issue, without stockholder approval, preferred stock with any terms that the board of directors determines and additional shares of our common stock; and
limitations on the ability of certain stockholders to enter into certain business combinations with us, as provided under Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law.
These provisions of our certificate of incorporation and by-laws may delay, defer or prevent a transaction or a change in control that might otherwise be in the best interests of our stockholders.
We may require additional capital in the future, and this additional capital may not be available on acceptable terms or at all.
We may need to raise additional funds in order to fund more rapid expansion (organically or through strategic acquisitions), to develop new or enhanced services or products, to respond to competitive pressures or to acquire complementary products, businesses or technologies. If we raise additional funds through the issuance of equity or convertible debt securities, the percentage ownership of our stockholders will be reduced, stockholders may experience additional dilution and the securities that we issue may have rights, preferences and privileges senior to those of our common stock. Additional financing may not be available on terms favorable to us or at all. If adequate funds are not available or are not available on acceptable terms, we may not be able to fund our expansion, take advantage of unanticipated acquisition opportunities, develop or enhance services or products or respond to competitive pressures. These inabilities could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Shares eligible for future sale may cause the market price of our common stock to drop significantly, even if our business is doing well.
The market price of our common stock could decline as a result of sales of a large number of shares of our common stock in the market in the future or the perception that these sales could occur. These sales, or the possibility that these sales may occur, also might make it more difficult for us to sell equity securities in the future at a time and at a price that we deem appropriate.
Certain stockholders or entities controlled by them or their permitted transferees beneficially own shares of our common stock that have not been registered for resale with the SEC. The holders of these restricted shares may sell their shares in the public market from time to time without registering them, subject in the case of our affiliates, to certain limitations on the timing, amount and method of those sales imposed by regulations promulgated by the SEC. Holders of restricted stock will also have the right to cause us to register the resale of shares of common stock beneficially owned by them.
In the future, we may issue securities in connection with investments and acquisitions. The amount of our common stock issued in connection with an investment or acquisition could constitute a material portion of our then outstanding common stock.
It may be difficult to enforce judgments rendered against us in U.S. courts.
Although we are a Delaware corporation, our subsidiaries and most of our assets are located outside of the U.S. Furthermore, most of our directors and officers and some experts named in this report reside outside the U.S. As a result, it may not be possible to effect service of process within the U.S. upon these persons. Moreover, uncertainty exists as to whether courts outside of the U.S. would recognize or enforce judgments rendered against us, our subsidiaries, or the abovementioned persons in U.S. courts and predicated on the civil liability provisions of U.S. federal securities laws. In addition, any original or enforcement action in a court outside the U.S. will be subject to compliance with procedural requirements under applicable local law, including the condition that the judgment does not violate the public policy of the applicable jurisdiction.
Risks related to our convertible senior notes
The conditional conversion feature of the 2028 Notes, if triggered, may adversely affect our financial condition and operating results.
In the event the conditional conversion feature of the 2028 Notes is triggered, holders of 2028 Notes will be entitled to convert the 2028 Notes at any time during specified periods at their option. If one or more holders elect to convert their 2028 Notes, and even though our current intention is to satisfy our conversion obligation by delivering shares of our common stock (and cash in lieu of delivering any fractional share), we can decide to settle a portion or all of our conversion obligation through the payment of cash, which could adversely affect our liquidity. In addition, even if holders do not elect to convert their 2028 Notes, we could be required under applicable accounting rules to reclassify all or a portion of the outstanding principal of the Notes as a current rather than long-term liability, which would result in a material reduction of our net working capital.
UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
Our principal administrative, marketing and product development facilities are located in our offices in the City of Buenos Aires and the provinces of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Mendoza, Entre Rios, Santa Fe and San Luis, Argentina; Brasilia, Florianópolis, São Paulo and Osasco, Brazil; Mexico City, Mexico; Aguada Park and Montevideo, Uruguay; Bogotá and Medellín, Colombia; Lima, Peru and Santiago de Chile, Chile. Currently, all of our offices are occupied under lease agreements, except for three of our Argentine offices. The leases for our facilities provide for renewal options. After expiration of these leases, we can renegotiate the leases with our current landlords, or move to another location. From time to time we consider various alternatives related to our long-term facility needs. While we believe our existing facilities are adequate to meet our immediate needs, it may become necessary to lease or acquire additional or alternative space to accommodate any future growth.
Our fulfillment centers for Mercado Envios are located in Axotlán, Municipio de Cuautitlán Izcalli, and in Tepotzotlán, both in Mexico State, Mexico, in Louveira and Cajamar, both in São Paulo State, Brazil and in Mercado Central, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Our crossdocking centers for Mercado Envios are located in Campinas and in Villa Guilherme, all of them in São Paulo State, Brazil, and in Sarandí and Mercado Central, all of them in Buenos Aires, Argentina. All of the fulfillment and crossdocking centers are occupied under lease agreements. Our Service Centers occupied under lease agreements for Mercado Envios are located in São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, Curitiba, Goiânia, Brasília, Fortaleza, Contagem, Brazil and in Tlalnepantla, Municipio de Estado de México, Iztacalco, alcaldía de Ciudad de México, Guadalajara Jalisco, Escobedo Nuevo León and León Guanajuato, Mexico.
Our headquarters are located in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Our data centers are located in Virginia, United States, and occupy approximately 418 square meters. As of December 31, 2019, our owned and leased facilities (excluding data centers) provided us with square meters as follows:
Please refer to Item 8 of Part II, “Financial Statements and Supplementary Data”—Note 13 Commitments and Contingencies—Litigation and Other Legal Matters.
MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES
MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
Market Price of and Dividends on the Registrant’s Common Equity
Shares of our common stock, par value $0.001 per share, or our common stock, trade on the Nasdaq Global Select Market (“NASDAQ”) under the symbol “MELI.” As of December 31, 2019, the closing price of our common stock was $571.94 per share. As of February 12, 2020, we had 20 holders of record of our common stock. This figure does not reflect the beneficial ownership of shares held in nominee name. The following table sets forth, for the indicated periods, the high and low per share sale prices for our common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market:
Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities
There were no sales of unregistered securities by us during the three-month period ending December 31, 2019.
After reviewing the Company’s capital allocation process the Board of Directors has concluded that it has multiple investment opportunities that can generate greater return to shareholders through investing capital into the business over a dividend policy. Consequently, the Board of Directors suspended the payment of dividend to shareholders as from the first quarter of 2018.
Equity Compensation Plan Information
Information regarding securities authorized for issuance under the Company’s equity compensation plan as of December 31, 2019 is set forth in “Item 12. Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholders Matters.”
The graph below shows the total stockholder return of an investment of $100 on December 31, 2007 through December 31, 2019 for (i) our common stock; (ii) The Nasdaq Composite Index; (iii) The S&P 500 Index; and (iv) the Dow Jones Ecommerce Index. The Dow Jones Ecommerce Index is a weighted index of stocks of companies in the e-commerce industry. Stock price performance shown in the graph below is not indicative of future stock price performance:
We cannot assure you that our share performance will continue into the future with the same or similar trends depicted in the graph above. We will not make or endorse any predictions as to our future stock performance.
The foregoing graph and chart shall not be deemed incorporated by reference by any general statement incorporating by reference this Annual Report on Form 10-K into any filing under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, except to the extent we specifically incorporate this information by reference, and shall not otherwise be deemed filed under those acts.
SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA
The following summary financial data is qualified by reference to and should be read in conjunction with “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and our audited consolidated financial statements and related notes thereto included elsewhere in this report.