(Bloomberg) — Mercari Inc., the online flea-market operator that has become one of Japan’s most closely watched tech ventures, is closing in on new highs as the stock has drawn both big and small money.
The company has already grown to command the largest weighting on Japan’s startup-focused Mothers index as individual investors buy in — of some 230 of the largest Japanese companies with market value of over $5 billion, Mercari has the third-highest percentage of individual shareholders. Then on Oct. 7, Los Angeles-based money manager Capital Group declared it had taken a 5% stake in Mercari.
That’s helping propel the stock to near the 6,000 yen mark it hit just once, on the day it listed to great fanfare in 2018. After a rapid decline, the stock has worked its way back up this year, fueled by its first quarterly operating profit. That’s been helped by the coronavirus pandemic, which has boosted usage of its online marketplace where users buy and sell items.
Mercari is something of a rarity in Japan, which has few tech startups that have swelled to the size of the $8.6 billion company, according to Ikuo Mitsui, a fund manager at Aizawa Securities Co., who is still bullish on the firm after the share surge.
“In Japan there are very few companies like this, light on assets and not requiring large-scale capex,” he said. That’s why many are piling onto the stock, he added.
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It’s even more unusual for being a Japanese startup that is starting to see success on its app outside of its home country. The pandemic was a boon to its U.S. operations, which saw gross merchandise value (GMV) jump almost threefold in the quarter ended June from the year earlier. Monthly active users in the U.S. rose to 4.2 million in the quarter, a figure Mercari’s chief executive officer indicated is still small relative to the American population.
“Mercari has yet to become a platform that’s indispensable for the world,” founder and CEO Shintaro Yamada told Bloomberg News in an interview in September.
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With shares up almost 25% since its last earnings, all eyes will be on its performance in the latest quarter when it announces results on Oct. 30.
“If the GMV can beat that of the April-June quarter, investors’ certainty in the growth story will increase and shares should rise,” said Ryotaro Sawada, an analyst at Ace Securities Co.
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