SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
|x||ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022
|¨||TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
For the transition period from to
Commission file number 001-33647
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its Charter)
|(State or other jurisdiction of|
incorporation or organization)
WTC Free Zone
Dr. Luis Bonavita 1294, Of. 1733, Tower II
Montevideo, Uruguay, 11300
(Address of registrant’s principal executive offices) (Zip Code)
(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
|Title of each class||Trading Symbol(s)||Name of each exchange on which registered|
|Common Stock, $0.001 par value per share ||MELI|
Nasdaq Global Select Market
|2.375% Sustainability Notes due 2026||MELI26||The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC|
|3.125% Notes due 2031||MELI31||The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC|
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes o No x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See definitions of “large accelerated filer”, “accelerated filer”, “smaller reporting company”, and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act:
|Large Accelerated Filer||x||Accelerated Filer||¨|
|Non-Accelerated Filer||¨||Smaller reporting company||¨|
|Emerging growth company||¨|
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C.7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. Yes No ¨
If securities are registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act, indicate by check mark whether the financial statements of the registrant included in the filing reflect the correction of an error to previously issued financial statements. ¨
Indicate by check mark whether any of those error corrections are restatements that required a recovery analysis of incentive-based compensation received by any of the registrant’s executive officers during the relevant recovery period pursuant to §240.10D-1(b). ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes ¨ No
The aggregate market value of the registrant’s Common Stock, $0.001 par value per share, at June 30, 2022, 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, 2022) was approximately $26,089,586,448. Shares of the registrant’s Common Stock held by each executive officer and director and by each entity or person that, to the registrant’s knowledge, owned 10% or more of the registrant’s outstanding common stock as of June 30, 2022 have been excluded from this number because these persons may be deemed affiliates of the registrant. This determination of affiliate status is not necessarily a conclusive determination for other purposes.
As of February 22, 2023, there were 50,257,751 shares of the registrant’s Common Stock, $0.001 par value per share, outstanding.
Documents Incorporated By Reference
Portions of the Company’s Definitive Proxy Statement relating to its 2022 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days of the Company’s fiscal year ended December 31, 2022, 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, 2022
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 “Exchange 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, central bank and other regulations on our business;
•credit risk and other risks of lending, such as increases in defaults by merchants and consumers and other delinquencies;
•litigation and legal liability;
•security breaches and illegal uses of our services;
•systems interruptions or failures;
•our ability to attract and retain qualified personnel;
•reliance on third-party service providers;
•enforcement of intellectual property rights;
•our expectations regarding benefits and synergies from recent or future strategic investments, acquisitions of businesses, technologies, services or products;
•volatility of market prices, impairment and unique risks related to loss of the digital assets that we acquire;
•political, social and economic conditions in Latin America;
•our long-term sustainability goals; and
•the current and potential impact of COVID-19 on our net revenues, gross profit margins, operating margins and liquidity due to future disruptions in operations as well as the macroeconomic instability caused by the pandemic.
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.
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
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 orders processed, and is present in 18 countries: Argentina, Brazil, 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 digitally and offline.
We offer our users an ecosystem of six integrated e-commerce and digital financial services: the Mercado Libre Marketplace, the Mercado Pago Fintech platform, the Mercado Envios logistics service, the Mercado Ads solution, the Mercado Libre Classifieds service and the Mercado Shops online storefronts solution.
Through our e-commerce platform, we provide buyers and sellers with a robust and safe environment that fosters the development of a large e-commerce community in Latin America, a region with a population of over 650 million people and with one of the fastest-growing Internet penetration and e-commerce growth rates in the world. We believe that we offer world-class technological and commercial solutions that address the distinctive cultural and geographic challenges of operating a digital 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 us (when we act as sellers in our first-party sales), merchants and individuals to list merchandise and conduct sales and purchases digitally. The Marketplace has an ample assortment of products, with a wide range of categories such as consumer electronics, apparel and beauty, home goods, automotive accessories, toys, books and entertainment and consumer packaged goods.
The Mercado Envios logistics solution, currently available in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Uruguay, Peru and Ecuador, enables sellers on our platform to utilize third-party carriers and other logistics service providers, while also providing them with fulfillment and warehousing services. The logistics services we offer are an integral part of our value proposition, as they reduce friction between buyers and sellers, and allow us to have greater control over the full 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.
In 2020, we launched Meli Air with a fleet of dedicated aircraft covering routes across Brazil and Mexico, with the aim of improving our delivery times. We have also developed a network of independent neighborhood stores and commercial points (known as “Meli Places”) to receive and store packages that are in transit using our integrated technology. The Meli Places network allows buyers and sellers to pick-up, drop-off or return packages with a better experience, reducing the travel distance for all parties.
To complement the Mercado Libre Marketplace and enhance the user experience for our buyers and sellers, we developed Mercado Pago, an integrated digital payments solution. Mercado Pago was initially designed to facilitate transactions on Mercado Libre’s Marketplaces by providing a mechanism that allowed our users to securely, easily and promptly send and receive payments. Now, Mercado Pago is a full ecosystem of financial technology solutions both in the digital and physical world. Our digital payments solution enables any Mercado Libre registered user to securely and easily send and receive digital payments and to pay for purchases made on any of Mercado Libre’s Marketplaces. Currently, Mercado Pago processes and settles all transactions on our Marketplaces in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and Peru, and is available to process and settle transactions on our Marketplace in Ecuador.
Beyond facilitating Marketplace transactions, over the years we have expanded our array of Mercado Pago services to third parties outside Mercado Libre’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. Today, Mercado Pago’s digital payments business allows merchants to facilitate checkout and payment processes on their websites through a branded or white label solution or software development kits. 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 digitally-based payments solutions, we also observed that individuals and micro, small and medium- sized enterprises (“MSMEs”) 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 being settled in cash throughout the region. Consequently, we have also deepened our fintech 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 for segments of the population that have been historically underserved and operate in the informal economy today.
In our main markets, we currently offer the following solutions:
•In-store physical payments by selling mobile point of sale (“MPOS”) devices and through 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 and debit cards for users to spend and withdraw their account balances from their Mercado Pago wallet;
•Merchant and consumer credits, both on and off the Mercado Libre Marketplace, and credit cards;
•Insurance products such as extended warranties, theft and damage policies, among others;
•Savings and investment products to invest balances stored on Mercado Pago accounts; and
•A cryptocurrency buy, hold and sell feature of our wallet in Brazil and Mexico, for users to buy, hold and sell selected global cryptocurrencies and stablecoins.
Mercado Credito, our credit solution available in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Chile, leverages our user base, which is loyal and engaged, and in part has also 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. Our distribution capabilities and in-depth understanding of our customers’ behavior and merchants’ sales on the Mercado Libre Marketplace and machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms have also allowed us to develop our own proprietary credit risk models with unique data that differentiate our scoring from traditional financial institutions.
We offer credit lines to both our online merchants as well as MPOS device users. Because our online merchants’ business flows through Mercado Pago, we are able to collect principal and interest payments from their existing sales on Mercado Libre’s Marketplaces, meaningfully reducing the risk of uncollectability on the loans we originate to our merchants.
Consumers can access credit lines through us once we score and approve them through our proprietary models. Loans can be used for a purchase on the Mercado Libre Marketplace, or for any other usage. Since 2019, we also extend personal loans to recurring consumer credit borrowers, allowing them to buy products and services outside of our platform. In 2021, we launched our first Mercado Pago credit card in Brazil, which is free, internationally accepted, digitally managed and can be used on- and off-platform. An advantage of the credit card is that it allows users to pay in additional installments for purchases on the Mercado Libre Marketplace and accrue additional points to our user loyalty program.
Our credits business was initially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the early stages of the pandemic when we slowed our pace of originations to manage our exposure to credit risk. As 2020 progressed and transaction levels improved across our platforms, we began to collect more data in our proprietary credit models, which helped us gain a better understanding of users. This understanding enabled us to more accurately predict their behavior and continue increasing the pace of originations while maintaining levels of uncollectible debt in an acceptable level from a business perspective in 2021 and 2022. In mid-2022 we slowed our originations once more to contain the risks associated with a weaker lending environment, particularly in Brazil, which enabled us to maintain stable levels of early non-performing loans ("NPLs").
Our asset management product, which is available in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, is a critical pillar to build 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.
As an extension of our asset management and savings solutions for users, we launched a digital assets feature as part of the Mercado Pago wallet in Brazil in 2021 and in Mexico in 2022. This service allows our millions of users to purchase, hold and sell selected digital assets through our interface without leaving the Mercado Pago application, while a partner acts as the custodian and exchange and offers the blockchain infrastructure platform. This feature is available for all users through their Mercado Pago wallet. In 2022 we launched savings products in Brazil that enable users to purchase certificates of deposit, which have a higher return than our basic asset management product. In partnership with a third party, we also launched three investment fund options in Brazil, which enable our users to diversify their investment portfolio in an accessible way and with options for quick withdrawal.
Our advertising platform, Mercado Ads, 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 access 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, benefiting both the commerce and fintech businesses.
Complementing the services we offer, our digital storefront solution, Mercado Shops, allows users to set up, manage and promote their own digital stores. These stores are hosted by Mercado Libre and offer integration with the rest of our ecosystem, namely our Marketplaces, payment services and logistics services. Users can create a store at no cost, and can access additional functionalities and value added services on commission.
Our loyalty program offers various benefits to users based on a point-generation system that quantifies the user’s spending on the Mercado Libre Marketplace and Mercado Pago. Level 6, the highest level of the six tier program, offers the most benefits, which includes discounts on shipping for purchases that fall below the free shipping threshold, free and subsidized access to third-party video content and higher rates of interest on some of our savings and investment account products, among other benefits. We also enable users to subscribe to Level 6 for a monthly fee, giving them access to the full suite of benefits without having to reach the number of points required to be eligible for Level 6 organically, through the point-generation system.
Finally, we also offer our users subscriptions to video content from certain third-party content providers for a monthly fee.
The following table shows the main services currently available in each country where we operate:
|Mercado Envios||Mercado Credito|
|Venezuela, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Panama, Bolivia, Guatemala, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador||ü|
We have two distinctive revenue streams in our business:
Our Commerce business is comprised of two primary revenue streams: Services and Product Sales. Our Services revenue stream is mainly generated from Marketplace fees that include final value fees and flat fees for transactions below a certain merchandise value, related shipping fees net of third-party carrier costs (when we act as an agent), classifieds fees, ad sales up-front fees, and fees from other ancillary businesses. Our Product Sales revenue stream, entails selling merchandise on a first-party basis from our own inventory and related shipping fees.
Our Fintech business is comprised of three primary revenue streams: (a) Fintech Services, which includes revenues from commissions we charge for transactions off-platform derived from use of the payment solution, offering installments, either when we finance transactions directly or when we sell the corresponding financial assets, as well as Mercado Pago credit and debit card fees, and insurtech fees; (b) Credit Revenues, which includes revenues from interest earned on loans and advances granted to merchants and consumers, and interest earned on Mercado Pago credit card transactions; and (c) Fintech Product Sales, which includes revenues from sales of mobile point of sales devices.
Our main focus is to serve people in Latin America by enabling wider access to retail, digital payments and e-commerce services, and by 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 650 million people and one of the fastest-growing e-commerce and 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 and shipping solutions to facilitate such transactions, and advertising solutions to promote them. We also serve our users by making capital more accessible through different credit products and fostering entrepreneurship and social mobility, with the goal of creating significant value for our stakeholders.
More broadly, we strive to make inefficient markets more efficient through technology and in that process generate value for all our stakeholders.
To achieve these objectives, we intend to pursue the following strategies:
•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: (a) maximizing utilization of Mercado Pago on our platform and expanding off-platform in digital and offline transactions, (b) offering additional product categories in our marketplace, (c) expanding our presence in vehicle, real estate and services classifieds, (d) maximizing the value and usage of account money through savings and investment products, (e) maximizing utilization of Mercado Envios, (f) expanding our Mercado Credito service, (g) offering enterprise software solutions to our online commerce business users 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 within our ecosystem in the future.
•Continue to improve the 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. In line with our constant focus on innovation, a critical component of user experience is the vertical solutions that 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 loyalty program for frequent users.
•Continue to grow our business and maintain market leadership. We focus on growing our business, achieving scale-related competitive advantages and strengthening our position as a preferred commerce and fintech 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 services in new countries and entering new category segments, by launching new transactional business lines, and through potential strategic acquisitions of key businesses and assets.
•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 among our services. We strive to leverage our various services and our 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, our Mercado Pago payments solution on our Marketplaces and reward our users in each country for increased usage and engagement.
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 within our entire ecosystem of commerce and fintech. 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 media and live-streaming events, and use of targeted promotional discount coupons. During 2022, we strengthened our demand generation efforts in Mercado Libre with multiple initiatives. We also accelerated our digital financial services positioning for Mercado Pago. These campaigns were rolled out across public TV, cable TV, radio, billboards and online media. We continued carrying out a complete coverage of promotional campaigns on commercial dates such as Children’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, leveraging our unique ecosystem of solutions within advertising, Mercado Credito, Mercado Shops and Mercado Envios.
Product Development and Technology
On December 31, 2022, we had 13,856 employees on our information technology and product development staff, an increase from 9,471 employees on December 31, 2021, due to new hires and as a consequence of improvements in our ecosystem products, which increased our information technology and product development staff.
We continually work to improve both our Mercado Libre Marketplace and Mercado Pago mobile apps and 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 design, develop, and operate most of our software and technology in-house. We have several development centers throughout Latin America. We believe having a team as diverse as our user base gives us a distinct advantage when building products for markets as unique as the ones where we operate. Different languages and cultures require different features and products, and our multi-disciplinary development team can draw from both data and their own culture for insights when designing, implementing, and releasing products.
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 innovations and developments in the field. We also rely on certain technologies that we license from third parties, suppliers of key database technology, operating systems and specific hardware components for our services.
In the past, we started a deep technology overhaul to switch from a closed and monolithic system to an open and decoupled one. We split our teams into many decoupled and autonomous “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 APIs. This successful overhaul allowed us to unlock greater developer productivity from all our teams. In the past, we opened up our platform to allow third parties to integrate the various features of our platform into custom applications. Since then, we have seen significant adoption of our platform and entire companies built on and around our APIs and services, all of them focused on adding even more value to our users.
During this overhaul, we built a proprietary Platform as a Service (“PAAS”) product used daily by our development team. This state-of-the-art tool helps our teams by greatly reducing cognitive overload related to infrastructure and network management, allowing our developers to focus on adding value to our users and their code, and not which server their applications are running on. Our PAAS is a constant area of investment which we have expanded from microservices to simplifying the building of mobile applications, software development kits (“SDKs”) and building, testing, training, deploying and monitoring predictive Machine Learning models, all with the purpose of increasing the rate of development and, by extension, the pace and cadence with which all our teams add value to our users.
Like most retail businesses, we experience the effects of seasonality in all of the countries in which we operate throughout the calendar year. Although much of our seasonality is due to the year-end promotional campaigns and 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 holiday season. 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 Hot Sale, Black Friday and Cyber Monday generate an increase in transactions.
The online commerce market is rapidly evolving and is highly competitive. 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 grow their e-commerce businesses, but also as international players expand, mainly in Brazil and Mexico. That said, over the last 12 months, we have seen signs of some local and international players retrenching.
The financial services market is also becoming increasingly competitive with the growth of several fintechs established in Latin America. With respect to our payments’ business, Mercado Pago competes with existing digital and offline payment methods, including banks and other providers of traditional payment methods that service both merchants and individuals. Mercado Pago also competes in the rapidly evolving fintech space with local and strong global players that offer digital financial services such as access to credit, virtual and physical cards, insurance, savings accounts, and asset management.
In the classifieds and 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.
Intellectual Property Rights
Our intellectual property rights (“IPRs”) are critical to our future success and rely on a combination of copyright, trademark, patent designs, trade secret laws and contractual restrictions.
We pursue the registration of our intangible assets in each country where we operate. Our main trademarks and domain names are duly protected in the countries where we have our main operations, however, we may not have effective protection or it might not be granted to us by the appropriate regulatory authority in every country where our services are available online, meaning our ability to protect our brands against third-party infringers would be compromised and we could face claims by third-party trademark owners. See “Item 1A. Risk factors—Intellectual Property Risks—We could face legal and financial liability upon the sale of items that infringe intellectual property rights of third parties and for information and material disseminated through our platforms”, which describes these risks as well as our Brand Protection Program, which we make available to IPR holders to enable them to enforce their rights against listings on our sites that allegedly infringe upon their rights.
We have entered into confidentiality and intellectual property (“IP”) assignment agreements with our employees and certain contractors. To prevent disclosure of our proprietary information to unauthorized parties, we have also entered into non-disclosure agreements with our employees, strategic partners and suppliers.
We have licensed certain proprietary rights, such as trademarks or copyrights, to third parties in the past and expect to continue to license such rights in the future. While we seek to ensure that our licensees maintain the quality of the Mercado Libre brand, they may take actions that could adversely affect the value of our proprietary rights or our reputation, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. See “Item 1A. Risk factors—Intellectual Property Risks—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.”
Employees and Labor Relations
The following table shows the number of our employees by country as of December 31, 2022:
|Country||Number of Employees|
We manage operations in the remaining countries in which we have operations remotely.
Our employees in Brazil are represented by different labor unions: i) Fetramag (“Federação dos Trabalhadores na Movimentação de Mercadorias em Geral de Goiás, Bahia e Piauí”) in the States of Goias, Bahia and Piauí, ii) Fetrammergs (“Federação dos Trabalhadores na Movimentação de Mercadorias em Geral, Comércio Armazenador e Auxiliares de Administração de Armazéns Gerais do Estado do Rio Grande do Sul”) in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, iii) Sindiesp (“Sindicato dos Trabalhadores nas Empresas de Internet Manutenção e Cursos de Informática do Estado de São Paulo”) in the State of São Paulo, iv) Fetramov (“Federação dos Trabalhadores na Movimentação de Mercadorias em Geral e Operações de Logística do Estado de Minas Gerais”) in the State of Minas Gerais, v) Sintracamp (“Sindicato da Categoria Profissional dos Trabalhadores Empregados e Avulsos, na Movimentação e Ensacamento de Mercadorias e de Cargas e Descargas em Geral de Campinas e Região”) in the city of Louveira, State of São Paulo, vi) Sintrammgep (“Sindicato dos Trabalhadores em Movimentação de Mercadorias em Geral de Paulínia e Região”) in the city of Cajamar, State of São Paulo, vii) Fetrammasc (“Federação dos Trabalhadores na Movimentação de Mercadorias em Geral e Auxiliar de Administração em Gerais, Similares, Conexos”) in the State of Santa Catarina, viii) Sintramoju (“Sindicato dos Trabalhadores na Movimentação de Mercadorias em Geral e Logistica de Jundiaí e Região”) in the city of Franco da Rocha, State of São Paulo, ix) Sintrammsp (“Sindicato dos Trabalhadores, na Movimentação de Mercadorias em Geral e Auxiliar na Administração em Geral de São Paulo”) in the City of Perus, State of São Paulo, and x) Sindlog (“Sindicato dos Empregados em Escritórios de Empresas de Transportes Rodoviários de Cargas Secas e Molhadas, Cargas Pesadas e Logísticas em Transportes de São Paulo e Itapecerica de Serra”), in the cities of São Paulo e Itapecerica da Serra, State of São Paulo. Also, 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.
Talent, Culture and Development
If we want to shed light on the most significant attribute that makes MercadoLibre a unique place to work at, we need to point to our entrepreneurial culture. This attribute, visible since our early garage days in Buenos Aires, continues to live in the more than 40,000 people that create our great team across Latin America.
MercadoLibre’s DNA, our culture, is best represented by a protagonist attitude, a relentless mandate to create value for our clients, to take risks and innovate, while delivering excellence as a team. Integrity nurtures our DNA and defines our identity, beliefs and conduct. For 23 years, our culture has played a major role in our Company’s exciting and successful story, becoming a competitive advantage and a major differentiating factor.
Leading the business in every market where we operate requires attracting, engaging and developing the best talent. At MercadoLibre, we do so by offering people a meaningful experience and co-creating the best place to work, one where our DNA multiplies. In a fast-paced, dynamic, joyful and collaborative environment, we offer people the opportunity to develop through complex challenges, pursuing excellence and achieving outstanding results while working as a team.
Over the last two years, as our business thrived, MercadoLibre more than doubled its headcount without losing our distinct culture. We remain committed to preserve the singular qualities that our DNA brings, scaling excellence and being agile to turn challenges into opportunities.
We are driven by the purpose of democratizing commerce and financial services to transform the lives of millions of people across Latin America. Everything we do as a company begins and ends with this purpose in mind, and our culture guides and inspires every decision that we make and every initiative that we launch.
Recruitment and Hiring
Our recruitment and hiring strategy is an example of our commitment to serve as a growth engine for Latin America in response to the challenges presented in the last years.
In 2022, we continued to generate quality employment. Our 2022 Hiring Plan, which created more than 10,000 jobs at the regional level, impacted our business and the development of Latin America. In 2022, we started with a team of 29,957 people and ended with 40,548 employees. This growth allowed us to continue to expand the shipping network and strengthen the technology team that develops our commerce and fintech solutions throughout the region.
We want MercadoLibre to be the best choice for employment, but we are aware that we operate in a very competitive industry where talent management is critical. For this reason, we strive to honor every day the value proposition that we offer to our employees.
At MercadoLibre we seek to maximize human potential by sharing the "MELI stage" of each person's life as an integrated and full course of events that can be fully taken advantage of. As part of the vision that we share, at MercadoLibre we assign priority to the well-being of our teams and understand the correlation that exists between effectiveness and balancing the different areas of our lives, work being one of them.
With this perspective in mind, we work on the comprehensive nature of well-being, which includes physical and emotional health, social connection, and financial well-being. Around these four pillars, we deploy our well-being proposal that includes activities, talks with specialists, learning opportunities, and meetings that aim at social connection and fun (which is also part of our culture, because at MercadoLibre we strive for our best and work intensively while enjoying what we do).
Our well-being initiatives during the pandemic reflect the impact we seek to have on our teams' health. In partnership with the Ineco Foundation and Humanize Consulting, we launched a mental health mapping tool to assess our people's emotional state and develop a data-based well-being strategy that could support each individual according to their individual needs.
This tool allowed us to identify people who were showing high symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, and to provide them professional, personalized and confidential support.
Diversity and Inclusion
In our effort to democratize e-commerce, multiplying perspectives, we innovate through diversity. Being inclusive makes us more disruptive. We inspire people to develop their skills and express their feelings in a healthy and fair environment, where prior beliefs do not determine approval and curiosity allows us to appreciate differences.
Our mission regarding diversity and inclusion is focused on three dimensions:
○ The construction of diverse teams, seeking complementary profiles. To include all perspectives and accelerate the change in mindset of the organization, in 2022 we set out to advance diversity especially in the following four pillars: ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and expression, and disability. Each open position is an opportunity to add a different perspective to complement the ones already in the team.
○ The development of inclusive environments, respecting and valuing differences, and ensuring equal treatment and fairness of opportunities. We want everyone to be heard and to be able to express themselves, give their opinion, and propose ideas to innovate and challenge their team with new perspectives.
○ The promotion of an inclusive society, fostering equal opportunities for all with products, services, and initiatives.
We prioritize the inclusion and development of women in our sector. At MercadoLibre, four out of ten employees are women, and women occupy 34% of leadership positions (managers and up), exceeding the market averages in IT in Latin America. We also promote and measure equity in compensation by, among other methods, carrying out a thorough analysis of equal pay to confirm that we do not have a gender pay gap. As a result of these and other diversity initiatives and priorities, women and men of the same seniority enjoy the same income level throughout MercadoLibre.
At MercadoLibre, we are constantly progressing by promoting increasingly inclusive teams and environments, and also evolving accessible technologies for providers and users. The percentage of our employees with disabilities doubled in 2021, and now there are almost 700 people with disabilities who give their maximum every day. In addition, our commitment to the promotion of an increasingly inclusive society impacts our business. Our Mercado Libre and Mercado Pago platforms have evolved significantly in terms of accessibility for visual and motor disabilities. For example, all the main streams are developed so that they can be interpreted and converted to audio by any read application of the operating systems. We have a team dedicated to educating and raising awareness among all of our development and UX teams to build accessible solutions for everyone.
Developing policies that accompany our employees in their family planning is key at MercadoLibre. In 2018, we became the first company in the region to support women interested in preserving eggs to extend their fertility cycle, covering 70% of the cost of the process. Since 2021, all female-identifying employees of MercadoLibre are granted 5 months of paid leave following the birth of a child. For same-gender couples or couples who are adopting, we offer the same leave opportunity: 150 days from birth or from the moment they adopt their child. Also, we provide paid leave for women experiencing a miscarriage, to support the recovery path during this difficult moment in their lives.
Remote Work Environment
Loyal to our agile and entrepreneurial culture, at MercadoLibre we seek to develop an environment that offers maximum flexibility, that connects people, and, at the same time, inspires them to give their best.
Currently, of the more than 40,000 people who are part of this team, around 16,200 integrate Shipping operations with on-site work. The remaining employees work 100% remotely with the option of going to the offices. That is, each person can choose where to work from.
This hyper-flexibility model has multiple benefits: on the one hand, it allows teams to integrate work with personal life, and on the other, it increases our ability to attract talent, since it opens up the possibility of hiring people who live in cities where we do not have offices.
In recent times, this new modality has challenged us more than ever and urged us to continue multiplying our culture in remote environments and redefining the "office" concept. To do this, we have listened to our leaders and teams to understand what they value about on-site work and the activities that would add differential value to them in this work environment.
Based on their input, we have redefined the experience on our sites to promote what we call “in-person with purpose”, which is a format in which offices become one campus. We seek to motivate people to choose face-to-face activities by offering high value-added activities that foster the in-person gathering: staff meetings, town halls, after-offices, learning activities, etc. In other words, by offering experiences that enhance connection and teamwork.
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, fintech, privacy, data protection, taxation (including value added taxes (“VAT”), or sales tax), 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 user´s adoption 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, fintech transactions, 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:
Mercado Pago’s activities are subject to a number of laws and regulations that relate to payment schemes and payment institutions, including Law No. 12,865/2013, which established the first set of rules regulating the electronic payments industry within the Brazilian Payment System (the Sistema de Pagamentos Brasileiro, or “SPB”) and created the concepts of payment schemes and payment institutions.
In addition, Law No. 12,865/2013 gave the Brazilian Central Bank (“BACEN”), according to guidelines set out by the National Monetary Council (“CMN”) authority to regulate entities involved in the payments industry.
Pursuant to that authority, the CMN and the BACEN created a regulatory framework regulating the operation of payment schemes and payment institutions. A payment arrangement is a set of rules and procedures that regulate the provision of a certain payment service to the public accepted by more than one payee, through direct access by paying and receiving end users. There are two types of payment arrangements, as defined by Resolution 150/21: (a) “Closed Loop Payment Arrangement”: payment arrangements whereby the payment services (account management, issuance and accreditation of payment instrument) are performed by only one legal entity, which also acts as the payment arranger (or is controlled/the controller of the payment arranger) and (b) “Open Loop Payment Arrangement”: any payment arrangements that do not fit into the concept of “Closed Loop Payment Arrangement”.
Payment institutions are classified into (i) issuers of electronic currency, who manage a prepaid payment account, make available a payment transaction based on the electronic currency deposited in that account, convert such funds into physical or scriptural currency, or vice versa, can also enable its acceptance with settlement in a payment account it manages; (ii) issuers of post-paid payment instruments, who manage post-paid payment accounts that enable users to make payments on a post-paid basis; (iii) acquirer, who without managing payment accounts, enables payees for the acceptance of payment instruments issued by a payment or financial Institution and participates in the settlement process of payment transactions as a creditor vis-à-vis the issuer, pursuant to the rules of the payment arrangement; and (iv) payment initiator, who initiates a payment upon a request of a client but it does not touch the money and does not keep passwords to execute payments on behalf of users.
In November 2018, Mercado Pago obtained approval from the BACEN to become a payment institution in the modality of an issuer of electronic currency, pursuant to which Mercado Pago carries out payment processing functions and offers payment accounts to its customers.
The funds held in a payment account: (i) constitute segregated assets in relation to the Mercado Pago's assets; (ii) are not directly or indirectly available to settle any obligations of Mercado Pago; (iii) cannot be subject to attachment, sequestration, search and seizure on account of the Mercado Pago's debts; (iv) are not part of Mercado Pago's assets for bankruptcy or liquidation purposes; (v) cannot be given as guarantee for debts assumed by Mercado Pago; and (vi) are subject to the possibility of total redemption of the balance by the user at any time. These are very important concepts introduced by the law that ensures more reliability to customers of services provided by payment institutions, which offer payment accounts to its users.
According to the BACEN’s regulation, Mercado Pago is required to maintain funds in an amount equal to the value of the balance of funds held in a payment account and in transit between payment accounts at the same payment institution in: (i) a specific account in the BACEN (Correspondent Account for Electronic Currency - CCME) or (ii) federal government bonds, registered at the Special Settlement and Custody System ("SELIC").
Mercado Pago is also a payment scheme owner of a closed-loop payment scheme, which is not part of the SPB and therefore does not require the BACEN’s authorization to operate as such, relating to peer-to-peer transfers between accounts opened by our users within the Mercado Pago payment account. Pursuant to the BACEN’s regulations, we are required to report certain operational information regarding this scheme to the BACEN on an annual basis, such as the number of users and the annual cash value of our peer-to-peer transfer transactions.
In addition, Mercado Pago as a payment institution in Brazil is subject to:
(i) Anti-Money Laundering Rules: Mercado Pago is subject to Brazilian laws and regulations relating to anti-money laundering, terrorism financing and other potentially illegal activities. These rules require us to implement policies and internal procedures to manage, monitor, identify and, if applicable, report suspicious transactions to the relevant authorities to prevent the practice of crimes of “money laundering” or concealment of assets.
(ii) Register of Receivables from Payment: Mercado Pago is also subject to rules regarding the register of credit card receivables and credit operations in a centralized system operated by an entity authorized by the BACEN. These recent regulations aim to promote transparency in credit transactions, a broader credit offer and to allow merchants to offer their credit card receivables as collateral to receive better loan offers, improving competition and reducing the cost of credit.
(iii) Cybersecurity Policies: In 2018 the BACEN published new rules setting forth cybersecurity policies and requirements for the contracting relevant data processing and storage services as well as cloud-based computing services, which are applicable both to Mercado Pago and Mercado Credito.
(iv) Data Protection Law: In August 2018, Brazil approved its first comprehensive data protection law (the “Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados Pessoais” or “LGPD”), which became applicable to our business in Brazil in August 2020. In December 2018, the former president of Brazil issued Provisional Measure No. 869/2018 which amended the LGPD and created Brazil’s national data protection authority (the “ANPDP”). We have created a program to implement the relevant changes to our business processes, compliance infrastructures and IT systems to reflect the new requirements and comply with the LGPD. The LGPD establishes detailed rules for the collection, use, processing and storage of personal data and affects all economic sectors, including the relationship between customers and suppliers of goods and services, employees and employers and other relationships in which personal data is collected, whether in a digital or physical environment.
(v) Secrecy rules: In addition to regulations affecting payment schemes, Mercado Pago is also subject to laws relating to internet activities and e-commerce, as well as banking secrecy laws, consumer protection laws, tax laws (and related obligations such as the rules governing the sharing of customer information with tax and financial authorities) and other regulations applicable to Brazilian companies generally. Internet activities in Brazil are regulated by Law No. 12,965/2014, known as the Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the internet, which embodies a substantial set of rights of internet users and obligations relating to internet service providers, including data protection.
Law No. 12,865/2013 prohibits payment institutions from performing activities that are restricted to financial institutions, such as granting loans directly. In November 2020, the BACEN approved the application filed by MercadoLibre Inc. for authorization to incorporate a financial institution in the modality of credit, financing and investment corporation (“SCFI”). In light of the authorization granted by BACEN, we incorporated a new entity (Mercado Crédito Sociedade de Crédito, Financiamento e Investimento S.A.), which operates activities related to the granting of loans and obtains better funding alternatives for our business.
On March 11, 2020, Mercado Pago also obtained approval from the BACEN to operate the activities of acquiring (payment processor) and post-paid payment instruments (credit cards) issuer, enabling the strengthening and growth of the Mercado Pago’s operations. However, according to regulation implemented by the BACEN, any payment institution that is already licensed in another modality may operate as acquirers, post-paid payment instrument issuers and/or payment transaction initiators, provided a 90-day prior notification is sent to the BACEN.
In 2020 the BACEN, within the Brazilian instant payment (IP) ecosystem, created Pix, the Brazilian IP scheme that enables its users — people, companies and governmental entities — to send or receive payment transfers in a few seconds at any time, including non-business days. Mercado Pago has participated in the payment scheme of Pix since its beginning and is subject to the applicable regulation.
The BACEN implemented the Brazilian Open Banking environment, to enable the sharing of data, products and services between regulated entities — financial institutions, payment institutions and other entities licensed by the BACEN — at the customers' discretion, as far as their own data is concerned (individuals or legal entities). The Open Banking implementation has been gradual, through incremental phases that take into account specific information/services to be shared, and Mercado Pago has been a participant of the Open Banking system since February 2021, when its phase 1 started.
Mercado Pago Instituição de Pagamento Ltda. and Mercado Crédito Sociedade de Crédito, Financiamento e Investimento S.A. as regulated entities in Brazil are subject to the supervision of the BACEN and must fully comply with all the obligations established in the current regulation, or be subject to (i) formal warning establishing a deadline for the remediation of non-compliance activity, (ii) penalties for non-compliance, or (iii) shutting down our Mercado Pago business in Brazil for an indefinite period of time, which would be costly.
During March 2022, the Central Bank of Brazil announced new prudential rules for payment institutions based on their size and complexity and raising standards for required capital. The new framework, which will be effective starting in July 2023 with full implementation by January 2025, will extend the application of the rule regarding proportionality of regulatory requirements (currently applicable to conglomerates of financial institutions) to financial conglomerates led by payment institutions. We are assessing the effects that the new rules may have on its regulated Brazilian subsidiaries.
In January 2020, the Central Bank of Argentina (“CBA”) enacted regulations relating to payments service providers that apply to the Fintech institutions that are not financial institutions but nevertheless, provide payment services in at least one of the stages of the payment system. Pursuant to this regulation, payment service providers had to register by April 1, 2020, in a registry of payment service providers created by the CBA. The regulation sets forth certain specific rules related to (i) providing information to users; (ii) depositing users’ funds in a freely available bank account; (iii) allowing users to dispose immediately of the funds credited to their accounts; and (iv) providing information to the CBA relating to the business of payments processing. On July 7, 2020, MercadoLibre S.R.L. was registered with the CBA as a payment service provider in accordance with applicable regulations.
On December 30, 2021, the board of the CBA issued a regulation that established that financial institutions must set up a reserve of 100% of the funds deposited by payment service providers that offer payment accounts in which the customers’ funds are deposited. According to this new regulation, from January 1, 2022, 100% of our customer funds that have not been invested by users in Mercado Fondo, have remained deposited at financial institutions, and such financial institutions deposited 100% of those funds at the CBA, and available for users. On September 22, 2022, the CBA modified the aforementioned resolution and established that a percentage of the customer funds deposited in financial institutions by payment service providers that offer payment accounts may be invested in Argentinian treasury bonds and do not necessarily have to remain deposited at the CBA. Under the amended regulation, financial institutions in which we deposit customer funds may invest up to 45% of funds that have not already been invested by users in Mercado Fondo in Argentinian, peso-denominated treasury bonds due May 23, 2027. As a result of the amended regulation, we withdrew on September 5, 2022 the cases we had originally filed challenging the December 30, 2021 regulation.
As a non-financial loan provider, since March 1, 2021, we have been required to provide certain information on a monthly basis as part of a new reporting regime. We have been registered as a “Proveedor No Financiero de Crédito” (non-financial loan provider) with the CBA since December 18, 2020. The regulation also requires that we comply with certain rules established by the CBA regarding, among other things: (i) interest rates in loan operations; (ii) protection of users of financial services; (iii) methods of communication with users of financial services; and (iv) such users’ access to information concerning their contractual obligations. The rules regarding interest rates became effective on January 1, 2021, and the rules regarding the protection of users of financial services, methods of communication and access to information became effective on February 1, 2021.
On September 1, 2022, the CBA issued a regulation that extended the application of the rules for the protection of users of financial services to payment service providers (the regulation was already applicable to non-financial loan providers). This regulation will enter into force on March 1, 2023.
As we continue to develop Mercado Pago and our peer-to-peer lending business, we may need to comply with regulations applicable to such payments and lending activities and/or anti-money laundering. In this regard, two of our Argentine subsidiaries have been registered with the Argentine anti-money laundering authority as entities subject to certain reporting obligations pursuant to anti-money laundering local regulations relating to the issuance of prepaid cards, card aggregator activities and insurance.
In September 2021, MercadoLibre S.R.L. completed the registration process with the National Insurance Superintendent to operate as appointed agent for insurance companies (“agente institorio”), which allows MercadoLibre S.R.L. to offer its users insurance policies sold by one or more insurance companies, as well as to manage certain aspects of such policies (payments, claims, etc.).
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 submit 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 processed. Our Mexican subsidiary submitted an application to obtain such license in September 2019.
On April 29, 2022, MercadoLibre, S.A. de C.V. Institución de Fondos de Pago Electrónico, a Mexican subsidiary, obtained the final approval by the CNBV to operate as an Electronic Payment Institution (Institución de Fondos de Pago Electrónico or “IFPE”, as referred to by the Financial Technology Institutions Act), which enables the entity to issue, manage, redeem and make electronic transfers of money on behalf of its clients, through computer applications, interfaces, web sites or any other means of electronic or digital communication.
MercadoLibre, S.A. de C.V. Institución de Fondos de Pago Electrónico became a regulated financial entity towards third parties, effective on May 11, 2022 duly published in the Official Gazette, and is subject to the supervision and jurisdiction of the relevant Mexican financial regulators, including but not limited to the National Commission for the Protection and Defense of Users of Financial Services, CNBV and the Central Bank of Mexico. Amongst the regulatory obligations to which Electronic Payment Institutions are subject, the following are noteworthy: a) maintain minimum capital requirements, b) maintain sufficient reserves in high-quality liquid assets (e.g. cash, treasury bills, etc.), so as to be able to redeem, on par, the funds held on behalf of the clients, c) comply with anti-money laundering and countering of terrorism financing regulations, d) develop and maintain sound cybersecurity and information security policies, including but not limited to the performance of recurrent vulnerability tests and the deployment of strict infrastructure controls.
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. In November 2021, the Chilean Commission for the Financial Market (“CMF”) granted Mercado Pago, through its entities Mercado Pago Emisora S.A. and MercadoPago S.A., a prepaid card issuer license and payment card operator license, respectively. These licenses transformed Mercado Pago Emisora S.A. and MercadoPago S.A. into regulated entities, supervised by the CMF and the Chilean Financial Analysis Unit (UAF, in charge of supervising anti-money laundering activities in Chile), and subject to other regulatory and financial requirements such as minimum capital requirements, liquidity reserves and know your client and anti-money laundering duties.
On October 12, 2022, the Chilean Congress approved the Fintech and Open-Banking Law Project, which was published on January 4, 2023, and came into effect on February 3, 2023. This law established a regulatory framework for certain technological financial services that did not have their own legal framework. These services are: (i) Alternative Transaction Systems, (ii) Crowdfunding Financing Platforms, (iii) Financial Instrument Intermediation, (iv) Order Routing, (v) Credit Advisory, and (vi) Investment Advisory. In addition, an Open Finance System is created to allow financial service providers to exchange customer financial information. After the Fintech Law comes into effect, the CMF will have 18 months to issue secondary regulation. Mercado Pago Emisora S.A. will actively participate in the discussions and workshops at the CMF with the other players in the industry.
On October 24, 2022, Mercado Pago Corredores de Seguros SpA was registered as an Insurance Broker in the Registry of Trade Assistants for Insurance of the CMF. The main objective of the Company is the remunerated intermediation of general and life insurance contracts with any insurer based in Chile.
Colombian regulations establish specific requirements to open accounts and provide certain financial services, as well as policies for cash and risk management. There are also regulations requiring payment processors such as Mercado Pago to comply with certain security, privacy and anti-money laundering standards. As a result, Mercado Pago has started the process of incorporating a new company (“MercadoPago S.A. Compañía de Financiamiento”) and requesting a license to act as a financial institution, and will therefore be able to offer credits, digital accounts, investments and prepaid cards without any limitation upon obtaining such license. We expect this new company to be operational by the second half of 2023.
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 Deremate.com de Uruguay S.R.L. from the Central Bank of Uruguay as an entity entitled to provide services of payments and collections (“PSPC”). Thus, on November 1, 2016, Mercado Pago was launched in Uruguay. Likewise, on August 26, 2021, we filed a license application before the Central Bank of Uruguay for our new company MercadoPago Uruguay S.R.L. to operate as an e-money institution. The product offer planned for this operation includes the products currently offered by Mercado Pago in Uruguay under the PSPC registration, plus the launch of new products enabled by new license. In January 2023, we obtained the approval by the Central Bank of Uruguay to operate as an Electronic Money Issuing Institution (“IEDE”) which enables that entity to issue, manage, and make electronic transfers of money on behalf of its clients, through computer applications, interfaces, web sites or any other means of electronic or digital communication. However, a final approval is needed to start operations.
On November 10, 2022, the Central Reserve Bank of Peru (“BCRP”) enacted regulations related to the card payment processing system that applies to issuers, acquirers and payment facilitators. On January 27, 2023, MercadoPago Perú S.R.L. was registered by the BCRP as a payment facilitator entity, allowed to (a) affiliate merchants to the card payment system, (b) offer POS, and (c) transmit or process card payment orders and /or participate in the process of settlement to the merchants affiliated.
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.
On June 10, 2019, the Argentine government enacted Law No. 27,506 (knowledge-based economy promotional regime), which established a regime that provides certain tax benefits for companies that meet specific criteria, such as companies that derive at least 70% of their revenues from certain specified activities related to the knowledge-based economy.
Based on this regulations, companies that meet the specified criteria shall be entitled to: i) a reduction of the income tax burden (60% for micro and small enterprises, 40% for medium-sized enterprises and 20% for large enterprises) over the promoted activities for each fiscal year, applicable to both Argentine source income and foreign source income, ii) stability of the benefits established by the knowledge-based economy promotional regime (as long as the beneficiary is registered and in good standing), and iii) a non-transferable tax credit bond amounting to 70% (which can be up to 80% in certain specific cases) of the Company’s contribution to the social security regime of every employee whose job is related to the promoted activities (caps on the number of employees are applicable). Such bonds can be used within 24 months from their issue date (this period can be extended for an additional 12 months in certain cases) to offset certain federal taxes, such as value-added tax, but cannot be used to offset income tax.
In August 2021, the Under Secretariat of Knowledge Economy issued the Disposition 316/2021 approving MercadoLibre S.R.L.’s application for eligibility under the knowledge-based economy promotional regime. Tax benefits granted pursuant to the promotional regime to MercadoLibre S.R.L. were retroactive to January 1, 2020. See Item 8 of Part II, “Financial Statements and Supplementary Data-Note 14-Income taxes” for further information.
We are also subject to significant general data protection and privacy-related regulations in many of the jurisdictions in which we operate (e.g. Law 25.326 in Argentina, Federal Law on the Protection of Personal Data on Private Sector Possession in Mexico, Laws No. 1581/2012 and 1266/2008 in Colombia, Law No. 19,628, Law No. 18.331 in Uruguay and Law No. 29.733 in Peru). Data protection laws establish rules for the collection, use, processing and storage of personal data and affect all economic sectors, including the relationship between customers and suppliers of goods and services, employees and employers and other relationships in which personal data is collected, whether in a digital or physical environment. We have created a program to implement the relevant requirements to our business processes, compliance infrastructures and IT systems to comply with data protection laws. Further, some jurisdictions in which we operate are considering imposing additional restrictions or regulations.
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 Dr. Luis Bonavita 1294, Of. 1733, Tower II, Montevideo, Uruguay, 11300.
Our Internet address is www.mercadolibre.com. Our investor relations website is investor.mercadolibre.com. We use our investor relations website as a means of disclosing material, non-public information and for complying with our disclosure obligations under SEC Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure). Accordingly, investors should monitor our Investor Relations website, in addition to following our press releases, SEC filings, public conference calls and webcasts. 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. The SEC maintains an internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC at www.sec.gov. Our Annual Impact report, the Sustainability Bond report and the Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosures are available on our investor relations website. Our Corporate Governance Guidelines, Code of 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, Dr. Luis Bonavita 1294, Of. 1733, Tower II, Montevideo, Uruguay, 11300. 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.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
Summary of Risk Factors
The following is a summary of the significant risk factors that we believe are material to our stockholders and prospective stockholders and that should be carefully considered when evaluating our company, our properties and our business:
•Our business depends on the continued growth of online commerce, the commercial and financial activity that our users generate on our platform and the availability and reliability of the Internet in Latin America;
•We operate in a highly competitive and evolving environment;
•We rely on third-party platforms, such as Google Play and Apple app stores, to access our Mercado Libre and Mercado Pago apps;
•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;
•The markets in which we operate are rapidly evolving and we may not be able to maintain our profitability;
•We may be liable for or experience reputational damage from the failure of users of our Marketplace to deliver merchandise or make required payments;
•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 consumer trends and could lose revenue if certain items become less popular or if we fail to meet customer demand;
•Manufacturers may limit distribution of their products by dealers, prevent dealers from selling through us or encourage governments to limit e-commerce;
•Our failure or the failure of our partners to manage Mercado Pago users’ funds properly could harm our business;
•We rely on banks, investment funds which acquire Mercado Pago’s receivables and payment processors to fund transactions, and changes to card association fees, rules or practices may adversely affect our business;
•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;
•A rise in interest rates may negatively affect our Mercado Pago payment volume;
•Changes in Mercado Pago’s funding mix and ticket mix could adversely affect Mercado Pago’s results;
•Our Mercado Credito solution exposes us to the credit risk of our merchants and consumers, among other risks;
•We face significant risks related to the ongoing reliability of our logistics network and shipping service;
•Failure to successfully operate our fulfillment network may also negatively affect our business;
•Problems that affect our service providers could potentially adversely affect us as well;
•If we are unable to compete effectively for advertising spend, or if our merchants reduce advertising spend, our business and results of operations could be materially harmed;
•We may not realize benefits from recent or future strategic investments, acquisitions of businesses, technologies, services or products despite their costs in cash and dilution to our stockholders;
•We depend on key personnel, the loss of which could have a material adverse effect on us;
•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;
•The continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business remain uncertain;
•Our debt instruments contain restrictions that limit our flexibility in operating our business, and changes by any rating agency to our outlook or credit rating could negatively affect us;
•The conditional conversion feature of the 2028 Notes, if triggered, may adversely affect our financial condition and operating results;
•We hold and may acquire digital assets that may be subject to volatile market prices, impairment and unique risks of loss;
•Increasing scrutiny and evolving expectations from customers, regulators, investors, and other stakeholders with respect to our environmental, social and governance practices may impose additional costs on us or expose us to new or additional risks;
•There are potential risks related to our loyalty token program and our cryptocurrency buy, hold and sell feature;
•Natural disasters, climate change, geopolitical events, global health epidemics or pandemics and catastrophic events could materially adversely affect our financial performance;
•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;
•It may be difficult to enforce judgments rendered against us in U.S. courts;
•We could face legal and financial liability upon the sale of items that infringe intellectual property rights of third parties and for information and material disseminated through our platforms;
•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;
•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;
•We are subject to security breaches or other confidential data theft from our systems, which can adversely affect our reputation and business;
•We may not be able to secure licenses for technologies on which we rely;
•We face the risk of political and economic crises, instability, terrorism, civil strife, labor conflicts, expropriation, corruption and other risks of doing business in emerging markets;
•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;
•Local currencies used in the conduct of our business are subject to depreciation, volatility and exchange controls;
•E-commerce transactions in Latin America may be impeded by the lack of secure payment methods;
•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;
•We may require additional capital in the future, and this additional capital may not be available on acceptable terms or at all;
•Shares eligible for future sale may cause the market price of our common stock to drop significantly, even if our business is doing well; and
•We cannot guarantee that any share repurchase program will be fully consummated or will enhance stockholder value, and share repurchases could increase the volatility of our stock prices and diminish our cash reserves.
Set forth below is a full description of each of 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 and operations
Our business depends on the continued growth of online commerce, the commercial and financial activity that our users generate on our platform and the availability and reliability of the Internet in Latin America.
Online commerce is still a developing market in Latin America. A significant portion of 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. Except for our first-party sales, 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. 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.
Given that we operate in a business environment in Latin America that is different than the environment in which other e-commerce companies operate, the performance of such other e-commerce companies is not an indication of our future financial performance. Availability, transaction speeds, acceptance, interest and use of the Internet across Latin America are all critical to our growth and services and the occurrence of any one or more of 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, fintech and digital content and electronic devices industries are relatively new in Latin America, rapidly evolving, highly innovative and intensely competitive, and we expect competition to become more intense in the future. To compete successfully, we must accurately anticipate technology developments and deliver innovative, relevant and useful products and services in a timely manner. Our competitors may respond to new or emerging technologies and changes in customer requirements faster and more effectively than we do, and they may also devote greater resources to the development, promotion, and sale of products and services.
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, mobile platforms or applications at relatively low cost using software that is commercially available or partner with other e-commerce, search, advertising or social media companies. Users who purchase or sell goods and services through us have increasingly more options and merchants have more channels to reach consumers. Competitors may also be more narrowly focused on a particular type of goods and create a compelling community.
We have many competitors in different industries, ranging from large and established companies to emerging start-ups. Mercado Libre’s Marketplace currently competes with a number of companies, including: traditional brick and mortar retailers, e-commerce and omnichannel retailers and vendors and distributors offering physical, digital and interactive media products that we offer and sell on our platform; online sales, auction services and comparison shopping websites; social media platforms and online and app-based means of search engines for the purchase of goods and services; companies that provide e-commerce related services such as inventory, storage and supply chain management, fulfillment, advertising and payment processing; other small online service providers, including those that serve specialty markets; business-to-consumer online commerce services; in each case located throughout Latin America. Mercado Pago competes with existing online and offline payment methods, including, among others: traditional banks and financial institutions; fintechs (e.g., crowdfunding institutions, electronic payment providers), and other providers of financial services, particularly credit, prepaid and debit cards, checks, money orders, and electronic bank deposits and transactions; payment networks that facilitate processing and aggregation of payments cards and retail networks; tokenized and contactless payment services, digital wallets, QR code-based solutions and other payment solutions; international and local online payments services; the use of cash, which is often preferred in Latin America; offline funding alternatives such as cash deposit and money transfer services; peer to peer payments and electronic money remittances and other point of sale terminals and devices or technologies installed at merchants’ sites.
Competitors with larger, more well-established and well-financed companies have greater resources, longer history, greater brand recognition, more customers and better access to suppliers of critical inputs and products. This positioning allows our competitors to acquire, invest in or enter into commercial relationships with competing businesses, adopt more aggressive pricing, secure better terms from suppliers, devote more resources to technology, marketing and promotional campaigns, infrastructure, fulfillment and payment solutions. These competitive advantages could be used to harm our competitive position through the adoption of restrictive covenants with suppliers, self-preferencing their product offerings, tying and bundling services and cross subsidizing. 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 that do not yet provide such a service could quickly and easily develop it.
In many cases, companies that directly or indirectly compete with us provide Internet access. Some of these providers may take measures that could degrade, disrupt, increase the cost of customers’ use of our services or advocate in favor of government measures that could increase or change regulatory requirements resulting in increased costs for us, all of which could adversely affect our business and results of operations. Further, discrepancies in enforcement of existing laws may enable our lesser known competitors to aggressively interpret those laws without commensurate scrutiny, thereby affording them competitive advantages. Some of our competitors have been accused of illegal and anticompetitive conduct in markets where we actively compete, making it easier for them to replicate such conducts in Latin American countries where such commercial policies have not yet been put to test before antitrust authorities.
The global financial services and payments industry is continuously changing and increasingly subject to regulatory supervision and continued examination. Some of the payment services offered by our competitors operate at lower commission rates than Mercado Pago’s current rates, which has resulted in market pressures with respect to the commissions we charge for our Mercado Pago services. Moreover, establishing a financial services and payments solution entity in Latin America has proven to be difficult and resource intensive (time and money). Traditional banking and financial institutions still have significant influence over sectoral regulators, which makes it harder to promote innovative payment solutions and policy changes to adapt regulation to an ever changing and fast growing innovative and disrupting industry.
We rely on third-party platforms, such as Google Play and Apple app stores, to access our Mercado Libre and Mercado Pago apps.
Our Mercado Libre and Mercado Pago apps are accessed through third-party platforms, such as Google and Apple’s app stores. We are subject to the standard terms and conditions that these providers have for application developers, which govern the content, promotion, distribution, and operation of apps on their platforms or marketplaces, and which the providers can change unilaterally on short or no notice. Those terms and conditions include limitations on the sale of digital goods and services, (e.g., streaming video services), the mandatory use of the providers’ own payment processor for the sale of digital goods with a steep fee that ranges from 15% to 30% of the product’s listed price and anti-steering rules that forbid developers from informing users of their apps that alternative means of purchase are available outside the respective app store. Apple also forbids the distribution and commercialization of third-party digital goods, thereby prohibiting the development of a digital goods marketplace in iOS in competition with Apple. Apple and Google’s terms and conditions for in-app purchases of digital goods may cause friction with Mercado Libre’s initiatives for its loyalty program as well as other new projects involving the sale of digital goods. These limitations may prevent the deployment of initiatives for mobile apps, thereby limiting the range of their overall impact. These limitations may materially affect our competitiveness with respect to other digital integrated conglomerates that do not face the same limitations, thereby impacting our capacity to grow, to innovate and to enter and compete in new markets. In addition, if changes to the existing terms and conditions interfere with the distribution of our products, if the platforms are unavailable for any prolonged period of time or if we are unable to maintain a good relationship with these third-party providers (including as a result of ongoing or future claims of anticompetitive practices), our business and results of operations could suffer.
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.
Rapid, significant, and disruptive technological changes impact the industries in which we operate, and the effects of technological changes on our business are uncertain. Our success depends on our ability to develop and incorporate new technologies and adapt to technological changes and evolving industry standards; if we are unable to do so in a timely or cost-effective manner, our business could be harmed.
We plan to continue to expand our operations by expanding our services internationally and developing and promoting new and complementary services. We may have limited or no experience in our newer market segments, which can present new and difficult technology challenges. 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, which 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. Our revenues depend on prompt and accurate billing processes. Failure to upgrade our technology, transaction-processing capabilities, 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 and our ability to collect revenue.
We may also need to enter into relationships with various strategic partners, websites, other online service providers, shipping companies 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, as well as our reputation. The expansion of our Mercado Pago and Mercado Envios businesses 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.
The markets in which we operate are 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 operate, the increased variety of services and products 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. 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.
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, and regarding the quality or the partial or non-delivery of purchased items. While we can suspend the accounts of users who fail to fulfill their obligations to other users, we do not have the ability to force users to meet their obligations. Our Buyer Protection Program, which is generally available to all of our buyers, has been implemented to address those situations, subject to certain conditions. As we expand the coverage of our Buyer Protection Program, the number and amount of reimbursements may increase. Effective customer service requires significant personnel expense and investment in developing programs and technology infrastructure to help customer service representatives carry out their functions, which if not properly managed, could significantly impact our profitability.
In addition, failure to handle customer complaints effectively and negative publicity generated as a result of the fraudulent or deceptive conduct of any of our sellers could damage our reputation, diminish the value of our brands and negatively impact our results of operations.
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, including with respect to Mercado Pago fraudulent and illicit sales, money laundering, bank fraud, fraud from means of payment entities, employee fraud and online securities fraud. Measures to detect and reduce the occurrence of fraudulent activities are complex and require continuous improvement, and there can be no assurance that they will be sufficient to accurately detect, prevent or deter fraud, particularly new and continually evolving forms of fraud. As our business grows, the cost of remediating for fraudulent activity, including customer reimbursements, may materially increase and could negatively affect our operating results. In addition, users’ fraudulent or potential illegal activities when using any platform we operate could expose us to civil or criminal liability and could have a material adverse effect on our financial performance, our business or reputation in the future.
We incur losses from claims of customers who did not authorize a purchase, from buyer fraud and from erroneous transmissions. Third parties have attempted, and will likely continue to attempt, to abuse access to and misuse our payments solution to commit fraud by, among other things, creating fictitious accounts using stolen or synthetic identities or personal information, making transactions with stolen financial instruments, abusing or misusing our services for financial gain or fraudulently inducing users of our platforms into engaging in fraudulent transactions. Due to the digital nature of our payments services, third parties may perform abusive schemes or fraud attacks that are often difficult to detect and may reach a scale that would otherwise not be possible in physical transactions. Numerous and evolving fraud schemes and misuse of our payments service could subject us to significant costs and liabilities, require us to change our business practices, lead to loss of customer confidence in, or decreased use of, our products and services, damage our reputation and brands, and divert the attention of management from the operation of our business. In addition to the direct costs of such losses, if the losses are related to credit card transactions and become excessive, they could result in Mercado Pago losing the right to accept credit cards for payment, which could adversely affect our business.
We are subject to consumer trends and could lose revenue if certain items become less popular or if we fail to meet customer demand.
Our future revenues depend on continued demand for the types of goods that we sell, that users list on the Mercado Libre Marketplace or that users pay for with Mercado Pago on or off the Mercado Libre Marketplace. Demand for our products and services can fluctuate significantly for many reasons, including due to perceived availability, consumer trends, seasonality, promotions, product launches, defective products or unforeseeable events, such as in response to natural or man-made disasters, public health crises, extreme weather (including as a result of climate change), geopolitical events, or changes in or uncertainty about macro-economic conditions, which could impact the overall volume of transactions on our platforms. 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 result in reduced revenues. Also, certain consumer “fads” or other factors may temporarily inflate the volume of certain types of items listed on the Mercado Libre Marketplace, posing an inventory risk and 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.
Although it is difficult to accurately forecast demand, we strive to predict these trends, as overstocking or understocking products we sell could lead to lower sales, missed opportunities, and excessive markdowns, any of which could have a material impact on our business and operating results or reputation. Failure to accurately forecast demand could significantly affect our revenue and our future growth.
Manufacturers may limit distribution of their products by distributors, prevent distributors 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.
Our failure or the failure of our partners to manage Mercado Pago users’ funds properly could harm our business.
Our ability to manage and account accurately for Mercado Pago users’ funds requires a high level of internal controls. As Mercado Pago continues to grow, we must strengthen our internal controls accordingly. Mercado Pago’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 we could be found to be in violation of applicable laws and regulations, be subject to fines or other penalties or forced to cease providing this service.
Mercado Pago offers its users in Argentina and Mexico the option to use the balances stored on their Mercado Pago wallets to invest in low-risk investment funds (money market fund equivalents). For the purposes of offering such intermediated investment functionality, Mercado Pago entered into diverse contractual relationships with licensed third party brokers and fund managers who serve as the managers of the investment funds and the facilitators of all associated investment services, including but not limited to the execution of investment orders. The scope of Mercado Pago’s involvement in these services is strictly limited to (i) the processing of charges and payments from users that use their balances held with Mercado Pago to invest, and (ii) sending the appropriate instructions to our investment partners. The third party providers have complete decision-making authority over the funds and their investment strategies. In Brazil, we have also partnered with a third party with a focus on the financial inclusion of users, to launch three Investment Fund options, allowing users to diversify their investment portfolio in an accessible way and with options for quick withdrawal. A disruption in our relationships with such third party providers or any of the services they provide to our users, could adversely affect our customers’ confidence in our business. In addition, the value of the investments made by our users in the respective investment funds, may fluctuate over time as a result of market conditions and investment decisions made by our third party providers. If there is a disruption in the services provided by our third party providers or the investments made by our users otherwise decrease in value, our users may try to pursue claims or legal actions against us, which could affect our reputation and results of operations.
We rely on banks and investment funds which acquire Mercado Pago’s receivables and payment processors to fund transactions, and changes to card association fees, rules or practices may adversely affect our business.
Mercado Pago relies on banks, investment funds 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. Card processors have the right to pass on to us any increases in interchange fees or 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 also offer Mercado Pago prepaid and credit cards in Brazil under the VISA brand, as well as an electronic payment funds card (equivalent to a debit card) in Mexico and Argentina issued under the MasterCard brand. If any of these companies were to be unwilling or unable to provide these services to us, or if they are willing to provide these services but at less favorable terms, our business and results of operations would be adversely affected.
We are also subject to, or 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 may 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, prepaid or credit cards to fund their payments and MercadoLibre users the option to pay their fees using a debit, prepaid or credit card, which could be materially adverse to our business.
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, liquid or that provide a reasonable return, and we may be unable to find suitable alternative investments, which 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 credit card receivables and consumer and merchant loans that from time to time we 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.
We offer users the ability to pay for goods purchased in installments using Mercado Pago in some of the countries where we operate. In 2022 and 2021, installment payments represented 19.8% and 24.8%, respectively, of Mercado Pago’s total payment volume. To subsidize the cost of the installment payment feature, from time to time we pay interest to discount credit card receivables, securitize credit card receivables through trusts or finance Mercado Pago business through financial debt. In all of these cases, if interest rates increase, we may have to raise the installment fees we charge to users that would likely have a negative effect on Mercado Pago’s total payment volume.
Changes in Mercado Pago’s funding mix and ticket mix could adversely affect Mercado Pago’s results.
Mercado Pago pays significant transaction fees when customers fund payment transactions using certain debit and credit cards or through unaffiliated entities, nominal fees when customers fund payment transactions from their bank accounts and no fees when customers fund payment transactions from an existing Mercado Pago account balance. 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 to pay using credit cards rather than bank account transfers for a number of reasons, including the ability to pay in installments, the ability to dispute and reverse charges, 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.
Certain costs and transactions fees that Mercado Pago pays in connection with certain payment methods are fixed regardless of the ticket price. Currently, Mercado Pago, if applicable, 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 the credit risk of our merchants and consumers, among other 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. We assess the credit risk of merchants and/or consumers seeking a loan based on a risk model internally developed, among other factors, which may not accurately predict their creditworthiness 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 may also be affected by legal or regulatory changes (e.g., bankruptcy laws and minimum payment regulations), competitors’ actions, changes in consumer behavior, funding resources, changes in the economic environment and other factors.
A decline in economic, political, market, health and social conditions could impact our users as well, and their decisions could reduce the number of cards, accounts, and credit lines of their account holders, which ultimately impact our revenues. Any events or conditions that impair the functioning of the financial markets, tighten the credit market, or lead to a downgrade of our current credit rating could increase our future borrowing costs and impair our ability to access the capital and credit markets on favorable terms, which could affect our liquidity and capital resources, or significantly increase our cost of capital. 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, which could impact our liquidity. Any of these events could adversely affect our business and results of operation.
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 the ongoing reliability of our logistics network and shipping service.
In certain countries where we operate, we offer users our Mercado Envios shipping service through integration with local carriers. We generally pay local carriers directly for their shipping costs, and then we decide how much of those costs we transfer to our customers. The decision to raise the shipping fees we charge to users may have a negative effect on Mercado Envios’ shipping volume, and the decision not to do that may result in an increase in operating costs of Mercado Envios which could generate net losses in our commerce operations.
We rely on a number of local carriers (through non-exclusivity agreements) to receive the inventories for our first-party business and on third parties to ship orders to customers. The unavailability of the services of local carriers because of unfavorable contractual or commercial terms or performance problems or any other difficulty experienced by the local carriers could negatively affect 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, including maintaining inventories of third parties that sell products through our platform. We also use fulfillment and warehousing services for our first-party business. As we continue to add fulfillment centers, our fulfillment network may become more complex, and the operation of such centers may present significant challenges including an increased complexity of tracking inventories and operating our fulfillment network. Our failure to accurately forecast customer demand, staffing and properly handle inventories and commercial relationships with third parties could result in excess or insufficient fulfillment capacity, service interruptions, an inability to optimize platform fulfillment or staffing, unexpected costs and adversely affect our reputation or results of operations. Any supply chain constraints that affects us, our merchants or vendors could also adversely affect our ability to operate our fulfillment network effectively.
We offer to sellers our Fulfillment Protection Program, for any damage or loss of seller’s inventories as a result of using our fulfillment network service, subject to certain conditions. We may in the future receive additional requests from sellers 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.
We continue to build new warehouses to manage increasing demand on our logistics solution. These construction efforts are subject to a risk of delay and also to risks relating to the quality of the construction, both of which could increase our costs and impact our ability to grow capacity in time to adequately meet demand.
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.
If we are unable to compete effectively for advertising spend, or if our merchants reduce advertising spend, our business and results of operations could be materially harmed.
We developed a growing advertising business on our platform. If we are unable to compete effectively for advertising spend, or if merchants reduce advertising spend due to adverse macroeconomic conditions or for other reasons, our business and results of operations could be materially harmed. Our ability to maintain or increase the amount and pricing of advertising sold through our platform will depend on our ability to create more value (such as increased numbers of users, transactions and monetization, as well as increased brand awareness) than our competitors. Some of our competitors are online sites that have larger customer bases and greater brand recognition, as well as a better understanding of local culture and commerce in certain jurisdictions. Failing to provide superior value or deliver advertisements effectively and competitively could harm our reputation, financial condition and operating results. Changes to our advertising policies and data privacy practices, or those of other companies, may adversely affect the advertising that we are able to sell. In addition, the existence and development of technologies that block ads online or affect our ability to customize ads could harm our advertising business.
We may not realize benefits from recent or future strategic investments, acquisitions of businesses, technologies, services or products despite their costs in cash and dilution to our stockholders.
We intend to continue to enter into a wide array of potential strategic transactions, including strategic investments, acquiring 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. Strategic transactions may involve significant additional challenges, uncertainties and risks, including, but not limited to, unforeseen operating difficulties and expenditures, challenges of integrating new employees, systems, technologies, and business cultures; failure to develop the acquired business adequately; disruption of our ongoing operations and diversion of our management’s attention; inadequate data security, cybersecurity and operational and information technology resilience; failure to identify, or our underestimation of, commitments, liabilities, deficiencies and other risks associated with acquired businesses or assets; and potential exposure to new or increased regulatory oversight and uncertain or evolving legal, regulatory and compliance requirements; potential reputational risks that could arise from transactions with, or investments in, companies involved in new or developing businesses or industries, which may be subject to uncertain or evolving legal, regulatory and compliance requirements; failure of the transaction to advance our business strategy and of its anticipated benefits to materialize; potential impairment of goodwill or other acquisition-related intangible assets; and the potential for our acquisitions to result in dilutive issuances of our equity securities or significant additional debt. Strategic transactions may also heighten many of the risks described in this “Risk Factors” section.
Acquisitions could result in potentially dilutive issuances of equity securities, the incurrence of debt, contingent liabilities and/or amortization expenses related to intangible assets and impairment of goodwill, which could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. Any future acquisitions 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, as well as our ability to successfully transition key roles, 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. In addition, changes we make to our current and future work environments may not meet the needs or expectations of our employees or may be perceived as less favorable compared to other companies, which could adversely affect our ability to attract and retain 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 major contingencies affecting our services and goods, it may be inadequate to compensate for our losses, its coverage may be limited, or the amount of our insurance may be less than the related loss. Any business disruption, litigation, system failure or natural or man-made 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.
The continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business remain uncertain.
The continuing effects of the pandemic on our business, operations, or financial results remain uncertain and will depend on numerous evolving factors that we cannot predict, including, but not limited to the ongoing duration of the pandemic and its impact on economic activity and consumer behavior.
Consumer behavior changed rapidly during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our business benefited from the shift from in-store shopping and traditional in-store payment methods (e.g., credit cards, debit cards and cash) towards e-commerce and online payments that was accelerated by the pandemic. These results, as well as other metrics such as net income and other financial and operating data, may not be indicative of results for future periods and our future operating results may fall below expectations. As the COVID-19 pandemic winds down in many parts of the world, the extent to which consumer preferences will revert to pre-COVID-19 behaviors is uncertain, and our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely impacted.
Our debt instruments contain restrictions that limit our flexibility in operating our business, and changes by any rating agency to our outlook or credit rating could negatively affect us.
The terms of our senior unsecured notes issued in January 2021 and certain collateralized debt under securitization transactions contain, and any debt instruments we enter in the future may contain, covenants that restrict or could restrict, among other things, our business and operations. Failure to pay amounts due under a debt instrument or breach any of its covenants may result in the acceleration of the indebtedness (subject in certain cases to a grace or cure period). Moreover, any such acceleration and required repayment of, or default in respect of, any of our indebtedness could, in turn, constitute an event of default under other debt instruments, thereby resulting in the acceleration and required repayment of other indebtedness we may have. Any of these events could materially adversely affect our liquidity and financial condition.
In addition, changes by any rating agency to our outlook or credit rating could negatively affect the value of both our debt and equity securities and increase our borrowing costs. If our credit ratings are downgraded or other negative action is taken, the interest rates payable by us under our indebtedness may increase. In addition, any downgrades to our credit ratings may affect our ability to obtain additional financing in the future and the terms of any such financing. Any of these factors could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
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 the outstanding 2028 Notes will be entitled to convert the outstanding 2028 Notes at any time during specified periods at their option. If one or more holders elect to convert their 2028 Notes, we can decide to settle a portion or all of our conversion obligation through the payment of cash, which could adversely affect our liquidity.
We hold and may acquire digital assets that may be subject to volatile market prices, impairment and unique risks of loss.
In February 2021, we began to use a portion of our cash reserve to purchase digital assets or certain other alternative reserve assets. During 2021, we invested an aggregate $30 million in bitcoin and ether (both, cryptocurrencies), and we may continue acquiring and holding digital assets from time to time in the future. However, in 2022 we have not bought additional cryptocurrencies.
The prices of digital assets have been and may continue to be highly volatile, including as a result of various associated risks and uncertainties. For example, the prevalence of such assets is a relatively recent development, and their long-term adoption by investors, consumers and businesses is unpredictable. Moreover, they rely on technology for their creation, existence and transactional validation and their decentralization may subject their integrity to the threat of malicious attacks and technological obsolescence. The status of such assets for a variety of regulatory purposes is unclear and may change in the future.
As digital assets, including bitcoin, have grown in popularity and market size, there has been increasing focus on the extent to which digital assets can be used to launder the proceeds of illegal activities or fund criminal or terrorist activities, or entities subject to sanctions regimes. If we are found to have purchased bitcoin or other digital assets from persons that have used the digital assets to launder money or from persons subject to sanctions, we may be subject to regulatory proceedings and further transactions or dealings in bitcoin or other digital assets may be restricted or prohibited.
Most digital assets are currently considered indefinite-lived intangible assets under applicable accounting rules, meaning that any decrease in their fair value below our carrying value for such assets at any time will require us to recognize impairment charges. This may adversely affect our operating results in any period in which such impairment occurs, which in turn could have a material adverse effect on the market price of our shares. We do not recognize any increases in fair value while we hold the assets.
As intangible assets without centralized issuers or governing bodies, digital assets have been, and may in the future be, subject to security breaches, cyberattacks or other malicious activities, as well as human errors or computer malfunctions, that may result in operational problems or the loss or destruction of private keys needed to access such assets, which may be irreversible and could adversely affect the value of our digital assets and an investment in our Company. While we intend to take reasonable measures to secure any digital assets, if such threats are realized or the measures or controls we implement to secure our digital assets fail, it could result in a partial or total misappropriation or loss of our digital assets, and our financial condition and operating results may be adversely affected.
Increasing scrutiny and evolving expectations from customers, regulators, investors, and other stakeholders with respect to our environmental, social and governance practices may impose additional costs on us or expose us to new or additional risks.
We have published an integrated annual impact report, sustainability bond reports in connection with the allocation of proceeds from the sale of our 2.375% Sustainability Notes due 2026 (the “Sustainable Bond”), a Sustainability Bond Framework 2020 (the “Framework”), and a specific analysis of climate related risk factors following the guideline and recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. These reports describe, among others, our policies, practices and initiatives across a variety of environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) matters, including our contribution to socio-economic development, diversity, inclusion and financial education, our sustainable development goals and manifesto, and human capital management. The implementation of these goals and initiatives may require considerable investments, and the goals set forth in these reports are complex and ambitious and subject to contingencies, dependencies, and in certain cases, reliance on third-party verification and/or performance. As such, we cannot guarantee that we will achieve any of these goals, including, but not limited to, the Company’s intention to allocate the proceeds from the sale of the Sustainable Bond to eligible projects meeting the criteria and within the time frame described in our Framework. Further, these efforts may contribute to increased scrutiny from customers, regulators, investors and other stakeholders related to our ESG practices and disclosure. For example, some of our Marketplace customers may elect to reduce purchases from us if we are unable to verify that our performance and products meet the specifications of responsible sourcing programs. Investor advocacy groups, investment funds and institutional investors are also increasingly focused on these practices, especially as they relate to the environment, health and safety, diversity, labor conditions and human rights.
In addition, there can be no assurance that our current policies, practices, reporting frameworks and principles will be in compliance with any new environmental and social laws and regulations that may be promulgated in the U.S. and elsewhere. New government regulations could also result in new or more stringent forms of ESG oversight and expanding mandatory and voluntary reporting, taxes, diligence and disclosure. The costs of changing any of our current practices to comply with any new legal and regulatory requirements in the U.S. and elsewhere may be substantial. Furthermore, industry and market practices may further develop to become even more robust than what is required under any new laws and regulations, and we may have to expend significant efforts and resources to keep up with market trends and stay competitive among our peers. Increased ESG related compliance costs for us as well as among Marketplace merchants and vendors and various other parties within our supply chain could result in increases to our overall operational costs.
Failure or perceived failure to adapt to achieve our goals or commitments, or comply with regulatory requirements or investor or stakeholder expectations and standards could negatively impact our reputation, ability to do business with certain partners and our stock price. Government, media or activist pressure to limit emissions could negatively impact consumers’ perceptions of our products and services, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, and the actions taken by governments and other actors to reduce emissions could impose costs that could materially affect our financial condition. In addition, our sustainability initiatives may be unsuccessful for a variety of reasons, including if we are unable to realize the expected benefits of new technologies or if we do not successfully plan or execute new strategies, or if we fail to timely allocate the proceeds from our Sustainable Notes, which in turn could harm our business or damage our reputation.
There are potential risks related to our loyalty token program and our cryptocurrency buy, hold and sell feature.
There are potential risks to MercadoLibre from the loyalty token program. Because of the novelty of digital assets, there is potential regulatory uncertainty about the legal and accounting treatment of the tokens issued in connection with the loyalty program in different jurisdictions, which could limit our ability to roll out or continue the program successfully. If the impact of the program becomes material to our operations, our reported results could be affected by variations in the market price of the token, since the tokens can be used by users as a means of payment on the Mercado Libre Marketplace at their market price at the moment of payment. While we have taken steps to make the tokens secure, digital assets in the custody of various other custodians have in the past been hacked or lost, and any users of our tokens that in the future may have similar experiences might try to pursue claims against us, which could affect our customer’s confidence on our digital assets and therefore affect our reputation and results of operations. Our tokens will likely fluctuate in value and, if the loyalty token program is unsuccessful or the tokens otherwise decrease in value, users may try to pursue claims against us. Any such claims could affect our customers’ confidence in our digital assets, affecting our reputation and results of operations. We cannot assure that the loyalty token program will achieve its objectives relating to customer usage and customer loyalty.
We provide our customers the ability to access through our Mercado Pago platform crypto-assets trading and custody services that are rendered by third parties, which allows users to buy, hold and sell certain global cryptocurrencies and stablecoins. We also rely on third party service providers to perform several functions in connection with our loyalty token program. Such service providers (“SPs”) provide our customers token and crypto-assets exchange services (whereby customers can buy and sell tokens and certain crypto-assets) as well as tokens and crypto-assets custody services. The SPs are also responsible for securing our customers’ tokens and crypto-assets and protecting them from loss or theft. We in turn provide a platform that acts as an interface for our customers to access the SPs’ services. A disruption in our relationship with the SPs or in any of the services provided by them to users could adversely affect our customers’ confidence in our loyalty token program, crypto-assets offerings through the SPs and on our business.
Our SPs rely on computer software, hardware and telecommunications infrastructure and networking to provide services to our customers related to the token and crypto-assets exchange and custody services. These computer-based services are subject to disruption, delay and/or failure, which could cause our users to lose access to our Mercado Pago platform or to the SPs’ services. Any such technical issues could negatively affect our customers’ confidence in our token and the crypto-assets offering through the SPs and on our business.
The SPs maintain the cryptographic private keys which allow access to the digital wallets where our customers’ token and crypto-assets are held and custodied. In the event that those private keys are lost, destroyed, unable to be accessed or anyway compromised and no back up of such private keys exists, the SPs will not be able to access the tokens or crypto-assets held by our customers in their custody. The SPs’ failure to safeguard the crypto-assets owned by our customers may result in losses to our customers, which could adversely affect our customers’ confidence in our crypto-assets and on our business. In addition, the SPs’ failure to maintain necessary controls or safeguard against improper transactions due to process or control oversight could lead to sanctions and reputational harm for the Company.
The regulatory environment concerning digital assets is uncertain and evolving. Changes in laws and regulations regarding crypto-assets, services that involve a partnership with a custodian and blockchain infrastructure providers, as well as the perception of the market regarding this type of asset, may negatively impact our ability to enable our customers to buy, hold and sell crypto-assets in the future and may adversely affect our business.
Natural disasters, climate change, geopolitical events, global health epidemics or pandemics and catastrophic events could materially adversely affect our financial performance.
The occurrence of one or more natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tropical storms, floods, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, typhoons; weather conditions such as major or extended winter storms, droughts and tornadoes, whether as a result of climate change or otherwise; geopolitical events; global health epidemics or pandemics or other contagious outbreaks; and catastrophic events, such as war, civil unrest, terrorist attacks or other acts of violence, including active shooter situations, acts of vandalism or terrorism, labor or trade disputes, and similar events in countries in which we operate, in which our users are located, or in other areas of the world (such as in Ukraine where armed hostilities currently exist between Ukraine and Russia) could adversely affect our operations and financial performance.
Such events could result (whether directly or indirectly) in physical damage to, or the complete loss of, one or more of our facilities, loss or spoilage of inventory, limits on our ability to receive the inventories of third parties efficiently and ship orders to customers, business interruption, the lack of an adequate work force in a market, the unavailability of our platforms to our users, changes in the purchasing patterns of consumers and in consumers’ disposable income, the temporary or long-term supply chain and logistics disruption, the disruption of critical infrastructure and communication systems, banking systems, utility services or energy availability.
Furthermore, the long-term impacts of climate change, whether involving physical risks (such as extreme weather conditions, drought, or rising sea levels) or transition risks (such as regulatory or technology changes) are expected to be widespread and unpredictable. Physical risk may result in: disruption of operations and distribution, as well as higher costs, due to increased frequency and intensity of severe storms, wildfires, high-speed wind, flooding, sea level rise, drought precipitation and rising mean temperatures; increased insurance premiums due to increased exposure to physical weather perils; and increased heat stress to our workforce and increased costs throughout operations, supply chain and distribution due to greater cooling needs. These events and their impacts could materially adversely affect our business.
Legal and Regulatory Risks
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 of the countries in which we operate, as well as the legal interpretation of such regulations by administrative bodies and the judiciary of those countries, including, but not limited to, those listed below. Further, because our services and products are available in a number of countries, 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 licensing requirements. 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 (“FCPA”) and other applicable U.S. and other local laws prohibiting corrupt payments to government officials and other third parties.
Any changes to, enforcement of, failure, or perceived failure to comply with these regulations, or the enactment of new regulations, could result in lawsuits, civil or criminal penalties, or fines against the Company or its subsidiaries, forfeiture of significant assets, an outright or partial restriction on our operations, additional compliance and licensure requirements, an adverse impact on our business, results of operations or financial position, or may otherwise force us to change the way we or our users do business, which could adversely affect the operations and reputation of our businesses in those jurisdictions. We have been and we expect that we will continue to be involved in disputes or regulatory inquiries that arise in the ordinary course of business, the number and significance of which has increased as our business has expanded. The media, political and regulatory scrutiny that we may face could increase or amplify these risks.
Internet Services Regulation
There is uncertainty in many of the countries where we operate with respect to the liability of Internet service providers, the application of existing regulations to our business as they relate to, or the enactment of new regulations relating to, issues such as e-commerce, electronic or mobile payments, information requirements for Internet providers, data collection, data protection, on line privacy, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence and machine learning (e.g. in relation to risk analysis) governing anti-money laundering, taxation, reporting obligations, consumer protection and businesses. This uncertainty could negatively affect our users’ perception and use of our services and could result in significant expense should we have to defend cases in an unclear legal environment.
Privacy and user Data Protection
We are subject to laws relating to the collection, use, storage and transfer and, in general, the processing of personal data about our providers, employees and, principally, our users. We expect that these regulations will increase both in number and in the level of stringency, in ways we cannot predict, including with respect to evolving technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and blockchain technology. Should we fail to comply with these laws, which apply to processing of all personal data, including the interactions with third-parties, transfers of information amongst our employees 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 against us. These complaints are small as a percentage of our total transactions, but they could become large in aggregate (absolute) numbers over time.
As far as taxation and the digital economy is concerned, many taxing jurisdictions and international organizations are considering changes to tax laws and policies in order to address so-called base erosion and profit shifting. These discussions aim to support and guide tax reforms that may impact e-commerce and internet based companies, including reforms related to corporate income taxation and also to value added taxes.
In addition, we have a complex corporate structure, with entities that are subject to taxation in multiple jurisdictions, and the management of that structure and the transactions among our entities creates potential tax exposures for us in multiple jurisdictions, including the United States as well as the jurisdictions where our subsidiaries operate. Further, any changes to, suspension or revocation of, any tax incentive regimes or other tax benefits that we may receive (including tax benefits under the Argentina knowledge-based economy promotional regime), could have a material adverse effect in our business, results of operation and financial position.
We may 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, antitrust investigations or litigation. Also, our business practices could give rise to regulatory action, antitrust investigations or litigation. 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 deposits, transmitters and/or electronic payments or funds transfers. We are subject to regulation in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Uruguay, that require or would require us to obtain licenses or regulatory authorizations to operate certain services provided by Mercado Pago and that would subject us to additional regulatory requirements. As an authorized or licensed payment services provider, electronic money institution and/or money transmitter in certain jurisdictions where we operate, we are subject to, among other requirements, restrictions with respect to the investment of customer funds, reporting requirements and inspection by regulatory agencies.
Any changes to, or failure to comply with, money services laws or regulations or any tax regulations, or if we engage in an unauthorized banking or financial business, could result in liability, inability to continue doing business with residents of certain countries, changes to our business or regulatory status. Any of these changes could result in making the service less attractive to users, decreasing the speed of trade on the Mercado Libre Marketplace, increasing our financial costs or change our financial model, which would further harm our business and results of operations. Even if we are not forced to change our Mercado Pago business, we could be required to obtain licenses or regulatory approvals.
We are subject to anti-money laundering laws and regulations that prohibit, among other things, involvement in receiving and/or transferring the proceeds of criminal activities and impose obligations to identify the users and request certain information and documentation that, in certain circumstances, must be shared with regulators or government institutions. Because laws and regulations differ in each of the jurisdictions where we operate, as we roll-out and adapt our business in other countries, additional verification and reporting requirements could apply. These regulations’ requirements, as well as any future regulation and any additional restrictions, could raise our costs significantly and reduce the attractiveness of the Company. Failure to comply with anti-money laundering laws could result in significant criminal and civil lawsuits, penalties, and forfeiture of significant assets.
As a U.S-incorporated entity, MercadoLibre is subject to U.S. sanctions administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”). MercadoLibre’s non-U.S. subsidiaries are required to comply with U.S. sanctions in the same way that MercadoLibre is required to comply with such sanctions. OFAC has the authority to impose civil penalties for violations of U.S. sanctions, and the U.S. Department of Justice is authorized to bring criminal actions against persons that willfully violate U.S. sanctions. Compliance with United Nations sanctions is also mandatory under local law in the jurisdictions where MercadoLibre operates. Failure to comply with local obligations could result in significant criminal and civil penalties, in addition to reputational and operational consequences.
A number of jurisdictions where we operate have enacted legislation regulating shipping services. If we fail to comply with shipping services laws or regulations, or if we engage in an unauthorized shipping business, we could be subject to liability, forced to cease doing business with residents of certain countries, or 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 them in a timely manner or at all.
Sale, Storage and/or Transportation of Goods and Services
Laws specifying the scope of liability of providers of online services for the activities of their users through their online service are currently unsettled in most of the Latin American countries where we operate. For instance, we may be liable for fraud committed by sellers and losses incurred by buyers when purchasing items through our platform. Our policies prohibit the sale, storage and/or transport of certain items (both on our platform and/or in our fulfillment centers and/or through third party carriers providing services to Mercado Libre) and we have implemented various actions to monitor and exclude unlawful goods and services from our marketplaces, which we continually work to improve.
However, 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 by users on the Mercado Libre Marketplace in complete infringement to our policies, bypassing our various security efforts and measures to go undetected. We have at times been and may continue to be subject to fines for certain users’ sales of products that have not been approved or infringe laws dictated 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 our users.
We cannot provide any assurances that we will successfully avoid civil or criminal liability for unlawful activities that our users carry out when using our services in the future. If we suffer potential liability for any unlawful activities of our users, including as a result of damages to individuals or assets, 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.
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, 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 above mentioned 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.
Intellectual Property Risks
We could face legal and financial liability upon the sale of items that infringe intellectual property rights of third parties and for information and material disseminated through our platforms.
We have received in the past, and anticipate that we will receive in the future, complaints alleging that certain items listed or sold through the Mercado Libre Marketplace or Mercado Shops or using Mercado Pago, or delivered by Mercado Envios infringe third-party copyrights, trademarks and/or other IP rights. Content owners and other IP rights owners have been active in defending their rights against online companies, including us. Our user policy prohibits any content or sale of goods that may infringe third-party IP rights and we may, proactively or at the request of any IP right owner who enrolls in our Brand Protection Program, remove listings based on infringements to our policies, as well as sanction any user who infringes third-party IP rights. Further, through our Mercado Libre Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance, we partner with IP rights owners to enhance Mercado Libre’s proactive removals and to pursue criminal enforcement against repeat offenders.
Despite these measures and our efforts to prevent IP infringements, we are not able to prevent all IP rights infringements and some IP rights owners may consider our efforts insufficient. Mercado Libre was included on the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Notorious Markets List for 2020 and the European Commission’s 2020 Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List and was nominated for both lists for the 2021 report. In February 2022, the Office of the USTR released the 2021 Notorious Markets List Report and removed Mercado Libre from that list, and in December 2022 the European Commission released the 2022 Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List and also removed Mercado Libre from that list. In October 2022, we were nominated again for the USTR Notorious Markets List 2022 report, but when it was published in February 2023, Mercado Libre was not included. We anticipate that we may continue to be nominated or included in these and/or any other similar lists, and receive legal claims from content and IP owners alleging violations of their IP rights, which could result in substantial monetary awards, penalties or costly injunctions against us, as well as adversely affect our reputation. It is also possible that new laws and regulations may be adopted with respect to intermediaries’ liability or mandatory out-of-court procedures to solve any disputes related to intermediaries’ liability that could have a material adverse effect on our operations.
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 by our users. Other online services companies are facing several claims for this type of liability. If we are held liable or potentially liable for information carried on or disseminated through our platforms, we may have to pay monetary damages, be subject to enforcement actions, injunctions, fines or penalties, and it may have an adverse impact on our business model, including our level of exposure to liability. Any measures we may need to implement to reduce that exposure may involve spending substantial resources and/or discontinuing certain services, which 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 have an adverse impact on our business model and reputation, and consequently on our business results.
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.
Our IP rights are critical to our future success and rely on a combination of copyright, trademark, patent designs, trade secret laws and contractual restrictions. The exponential growth of our business in recent years has been accompanied by a corresponding increase in infringement of our IP rights, particularly on social media, such as the registration of infringing domains, fraudulent apps and websites. We cannot assure you that the steps that we have taken or will take in the future to protect our IP rights will be sufficient to prevent misappropriation of our technology, prevent counterfeit sale of our products, or deter independent third-parties from developing similar or competing technologies.
Our trademark portfolio is owned by MercadoLibre Inc. and its subsidiaries, there are no material intellectual property assets jointly owned with any third party. The most valuable intellectual property owned by us are the “Mercado” trademark family portfolio, namely, Mercado Libre, Mercado Pago, Mercado Crédito, Mercado Fondo, Mercado Envíos, Mercado Puntos, Mercado Ads, Mercado Shops, Mercado Coin, among others, its related domain names (TLDs and ccTLDs) and software developments.
We pursue the registration of our intangible assets in each country where we operate. However, we may not have effective protection or it might not be granted to us by the appropriate regulatory authority in every country where our services are available online, meaning our ability to protect our brands against third-party infringers would be compromised and we could face claims by third-party 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.
In addition, we have filed in the main countries worldwide new trademark applications for Mercado Libre and Mercado Pago to cover digital goods and services related to the metaverse and we have also sought to register decentralized domains matching our most relevant trademarks. Some of the decentralized domains that we sought to register are already owned by third parties. We have been carrying out a strategy to obtain registration of such decentralized names associated with third-party wallets, but have not been successful so far due to the difficulties to enforce trademark rights in the blockchain domain space.
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. 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 third-party rights, but third parties’ claims may arise if our employees use third parties’ software without authorization or in breach of the applicable licenses. We expect to have an increasing number of claims as our business 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. In the past we have been, and we may in the future be, exposed to unauthorized access to our source code, including as a result of human error.
Cybersecurity and Technology Risks
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, the largest of which is Amazon Web Services. We have been and are susceptible to hacks 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. Security breaches, financial, regulatory or other developments that might prevent these third parties from providing services to us or our users could harm our business.
Our systems and our information technology infrastructure are vulnerable to damage or interruption from natural or man-made disasters, power loss, computer viruses, telecommunication and other operational failures, ransomware attacks or any other kind of denial of service related attacks, physical or electronic break-ins, sabotage, intentional acts of vandalism, terrorism, public health crises (including pandemics), extreme weather (including as a result of climate change) and similar events. The public cloud providers could also decide to close their facilities.
Any steps that we may take to upgrade and improve the stability and efficiency of our information technology may not be sufficient to avoid defects or disruptions in our technology infrastructure, which could cause a disruption in our business and adversely impact our financial results. Our systems are not fully redundant and our disaster recovery planning may not be sufficient. We do not have 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. We have experienced and will likely continue to experience defects or disruptions in our technology infrastructure, including system interruptions and delays that make our site and services unavailable or slow to respond for periods of time, which 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 users and negatively impact our financial results.
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 our business is the secure transmission of confidential information over public networks. 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. 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, have become increasingly complex and sophisticated, may be difficult to detect quickly, and often are not recognized until launched against a target. While we may not determine some of these issues as material at the time that they occur and may remedy them quickly, there is no assurance that these issues will not ultimately result in significant legal, financial and reputational harm, including government inquiries and enforcement actions, litigation and negative publicity. Unauthorized parties have and may continue to attempt to gain access to our systems or facilities through various means, including 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 usernames, passwords, payment card information or other sensitive information, which may in turn be used to access our information technology systems and those of third parties with whom we partner. 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. Our information technology and infrastructure, including our source code, and those of third parties with whom we partner have been and may continue to be vulnerable to cyberattacks, 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. Our efforts to address undesirable activity on our platform may also increase the risk of retaliatory attack.
Actual or perceived vulnerabilities or data breaches may lead to claims sanctions against us, subject us to investigations or liability, may compromise our reputation, diminish the value of our brands and discourage use of our websites. 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. In the case of a personal data breach, we may be required to notify the competent authorities (including central banks and other authorities that regulate our fintech business) and/or the data subject. Additionally, while we maintain insurance policies, we do not maintain insurance policies to reimburse us for losses caused by security breaches. 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 of companies we acquire or of our customers, partners or vendors, including parties that provide services to us or to our customers, could have similar negative effects.
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 systems 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.
Risks related to doing business in Latin America
We face the risk of political and economic crises, instability, terrorism, civil strife, labor conflicts, expropriation, corruption and other risks of doing business in emerging markets.
We conduct our operations in emerging market countries in Latin America, which have historically experienced uneven periods of economic growth, as well as recession, periods of high inflation and economic instability. There has been increased violence, crime, social and political turmoil and unrest in some of these countries, which could result in disruptions to our operations or present risks to our employees. These developments, as well as other economic and political developments in these countries, including future economic changes or crises (such as inflation, currency devaluation or recession), government deadlock, social and political turmoil and unrest, 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.
We also have operations and deal with government entities and financial institutions in countries in Latin America known to experience corruption. Our activities in these countries create the risk of unauthorized payments or offers of payments by our employees, contractors or agents that could be in violation of various laws including the FCPA, even though these parties are not always subject to our control. Our existing safeguards and any future improvements may prove to be less than effective, and our employees, contractors or agents may engage in conduct for which we may be held responsible. Violations of the FCPA may result in severe criminal or civil sanctions, and we may be subject to other liabilities, which could negatively affect our reputation and business. Further, to the extent corruption, bribery and similar practices continue to exist in the region, international investor perception of the region could be negatively affected, which could in turn negatively affect 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 and political 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.
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.
Local currencies used in the conduct of our business are subject to depreciation, volatility and exchange controls.
Most Latin American countries have historically experienced, and may continue to experience in the future, high rates of inflation, which could lead to further government intervention in the economy, including the introduction of government policies that could adversely affect our results of operations. Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, which together accounted for 95.2% and 93.5% of our net revenues for 2022 and 2021, respectively, have experienced volatility and significant devaluations in the past. For the year ended December 31, 2022, the inflation rate in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico was 5.8%, 94.8% and 7.8%, respectively. Since July 1, 2018, we have classified our Argentine operations as highly inflationary in accordance with U.S. GAAP, and use the U.S. dollar as the functional currency of our Argentine subsidiaries for purposes of reporting our financial statements. Argentina’s annual inflation rate for the years ended December 31, 2022, 2021 and 2020 was 94.8%, 50.9% and 36.1%, respectively, and Argentina’s annual depreciation of its local currency against the U.S. dollar was 72.5%, 22.1% and 40.5%, respectively.
The depreciation of local currencies creates inflationary pressures that may have an adverse effect on our results of operations, including affecting our ability to adjust the price of our services sufficiently to offset the effects of inflation on our cost structures and generally restricting access to the international capital markets. A high inflation environment would also have negative effects on the level of economic activity, employment and may adversely affect our business and results of operations. 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.
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 results of operations in the countries where we operate are exposed to foreign exchange rate fluctuations as our financial results are translated from the applicable 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, 2022, 53.8% of our net revenues were denominated in Brazilian Reais, 23.7% in Argentine Pesos and 17.7% in Mexican Pesos. Certain of our subsidiaries may be subject to exchange control regulations that might restrict their ability to convert local currencies into U.S. dollars. 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.
Further, extensive exchange controls implemented by the Argentine government control and restrict the ability of companies and individuals to exchange Argentine Pesos for foreign currencies and their ability to remit foreign currency out of Argentina. An entity's authorization request to the CBA to access the official exchange market to make foreign currency payments may be denied depending on the circumstances. As a result of these exchange controls, markets in Argentina developed trading mechanisms in which an entity or individual buys U.S. dollar denominated securities in Argentina (e.g. shares, sovereign debt) using Argentine peso, and subsequently sells the securities for U.S. dollars, in Argentina, to access U.S. dollars locally, or outside Argentina, by transferring the securities abroad, prior to being sold (the latter commonly known as Blue Chip Swap Rate).
The Blue Chip Swap Rate has diverged significantly from Argentina’s official exchange rate (commonly known as exchange spread). In recent years, the Blue Chip Swap Rate has been higher than Argentina’s official exchange rate. As of December 31, 2022, 2021 and 2020, the spread of the Blue Chip Swap was 94.2%, 96.8% and 66.7%, respectively (See Notes 2 “Summary of significant accounting policies – Argentine currency status” and 25 “Share repurchase program” of our audited consolidated financial statements). There can be no assurance that the CBA 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 subsidiaries and their ability to comply with their foreign currency obligations, and could significantly impact our ability to receive cash from our Argentine subsidiaries and our ability to meet our obligations, each of which could have a material adverse effect on our Company.
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 and may delay, defer or prevent a transaction or a change in control that might otherwise be in the best interests of our stockholders.
These provisions include: i) advance notice requirements for stockholder proposals and director nominations; ii) a staggered board of directors; iii) limitations on the ability of stockholders to remove directors other than for cause; iv) limitations on the ability of stockholders to own and/or exercise voting power over 20% of our common stock; v) limitations on the ability of stockholders to amend, alter or repeal our by-laws; vi) the inability of stockholders to act by written consent; vii) the authority of the board of directors to adopt a stockholder rights plan; viii) 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 ix) 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.
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.
We cannot guarantee that any share repurchase program will be fully consummated or will enhance stockholder value, and share repurchases could increase the volatility of our stock prices and diminish our cash reserves.
From time to time, we engage in share repurchases of our common stock in accordance with authorizations from our board of directors. Our repurchase programs may not require us to repurchase any specific required dollar amount or number of shares. Further, our repurchases could affect our share trading prices, increase their volatility, reduce our cash reserves and may be suspended or terminated at any time, which may result in a decrease in the trading of our stock.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
ITEM 2. PROPERTIES
We lease facilities in different countries of Latin America that are used for administrative, marketing, product development and shipping activities purposes. 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 and after expiration, 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.
For Mercado Envios, we operate fulfillment, cross docking and service centers in multiple locations in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Colombia.
Our headquarters are located in Montevideo, Uruguay. Our data centers are located in Virginia, United States, and occupy approximately 45 square meters. As of December 31, 2022, our owned and leased facilities (excluding data centers) provided us with square meters as follows:
|Managed by Third Parties (*)||26,523||393,993||—||97,133||517,649|
|(*) Includes properties that are leased by the Company and managed by third parties.|
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
Please refer to Item 8 of Part II, “Financial Statements and Supplementary Data”—Note 15 Commitments and Contingencies—Litigation and Other Legal Matters.
ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES
ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
Shares of our common stock, par value $0.001 per share, trade on the Nasdaq Global Select Market (“NASDAQ”) under the symbol “MELI”. As of December 31, 2022, the closing price of our common stock was $846.24 per share.
Holders of record
As of January 31, 2023, we had 198 holders of record of our common stock. This figure does not reflect the beneficial ownership of shares held in nominee name. The following table sets forth, for the indicated periods, the high and low per share sale prices for our common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market:
|1st quarter||$||1,332.94 ||$||882.47 |
|2nd quarter||$||1,265.01 ||$||612.70 |
|3rd quarter||$||1,082.66 ||$||653.63 |
|4th quarter||$||1,020.68 ||$||756.88 |