PayPal Holdings Inc – Cost savings drive earnings growth




The Positives

+ Improvement in customer engagement. In 1Q23, the number of payment transactions per active account grew by 13% YoY to 53.1x on an annualized basis (up from 47x in 1Q22). PayPal is increasing customer engagement through product innovations and partnerships, including the roll-out of Venmo payment option for person-to-business (P2B) transactions on Amazon. PayPal has also partnered with Apple to allow merchants to use their iPhone as a mobile point of sale (POS) terminal without the need for any additional hardware.


+ Focused on improving profitability. In 1Q23, PayPal’s non-transaction expenses (general and administrative, and technology) fell by 10% YoY due to cost controls resulting in adj. operating margin of 23% (vs. 21% in 1Q22). For FY23e, PayPal has outlined a total of US$1.9bn in cost cuts, mostly through job cuts and real estate consolidation. In 1Q23, PayPal laid off 2,000 employees (7% of its workforce) citing challenging macro-economic environment.


The Negative

- Active accounts decline sequentially. In 1Q23, active accounts grew by 1% YoY to 433mn but decreased by 2mn compared with 4Q22. The drop was mainly driven by higher churn from lower usage accounts and the management’s decision to focus on driving more engagement with existing customers. Notably, PayPal indicated that it expects no net new additions in FY23e during 4Q22 earnings call.

PayPal Holdings Inc – Accelerated cost reductions



The Positives

+ Customer engagement continues to climb. In 4Q22, customer engagement improved, with the number of payment transactions per active account up by 13% YoY to 51.4x on an annualized basis. This is a sizable increase given PayPal’s intent to shift away from adding new accounts and toward more engagement with existing users. The rolling out of Venmo payment option for person-to-business (P2B) transactions on Amazon could accelerate this engagement.


+ Focused on improving operating margin. In 4Q22, PayPal’s operating expenses fell by 5% YoY due to cost controls (job cuts and real estate consolidation) resulting in adj. operating margin of 22.9% (vs. 21.8% in 4Q21). Management noted that the company has exceeded its US$900mn cost-savings target for FY22. In addition, the company has identified US$600mn of additional cost synergies for FY23e, on top of the previously announced US$1.3bn. This includes recently-announced layoffs of 2,000 employees (7% of its workforce).


The Negative

- Slowdown in TPV growth. In 4Q22, PayPal’s total payment volume (TPV) grew 5% YoY (9% YoY in constant currency) to US$357.4bn. The growth rate decelerated significantly from 23% in 4Q21 mainly due to weak trends in global e-commerce and cuts to consumer discretionary spending amid inflationary pressures.

PayPal Holdings Inc – Cost savings progressing well



The Positives

+ Rising customer engagement. In 3Q22, PayPal gained traction in its effort to boost user engagement as average transactions per active account grew 13% YoY to 50.1x on an annualized basis. This is a sizable increase as the company is now focusing more on driving user engagement rather than adding more customers. PayPal added 2.9mn net new active accounts in 3Q22, taking its total to 432mn.


+ Cost saving initiatives boost profitability. In 3Q22, total expenses grew just 11.5% YoY, and were 5.2% lower sequentially. PayPal is on track to cut costs by US$900mn in FY22e and US$1.3bn in FY23e, across transaction and operating expenses. The company plans to reduce expenses through job cuts and real estate consolidation.  The cost-cutting measures began in 3Q22 and are expected to ramp up in 4Q22e. Cost savings are expected to boost adj. operating margin to 22.5% in 4Q22e from 21.8% in 4Q21.


+ New strategic initiatives to support growth. PayPal is working with Apple on several new strategic initiatives that could benefit PayPal and Venmo merchants and consumers. PayPal will leverage Apple’s Tap to Pay on iPhone functionality for the U.S. merchants to accept contactless debit or credit card payments using an iPhone and the PayPal or Venmo iOS application. Apple Pay will also be added as a payment option in PayPal's checkout flows. Additionally, online retailer Amazon has agreed to accept Venmo payments on its platform. The payment option is likely to be available for all U.S. Amazon customers in time for the peak holiday season.


The Negative

- Decelerating growth in TPV. In 3Q22, PayPal’s total payment volume (TPV) grew 9% YoY (14% YoY in constant currency) to US$337bn. The growth rate decelerated significantly from 26% in 3Q21. PayPal expects that slowdown to continue in 4Q22 with just 8.5% TPV growth. The soft guidance reflects continued weakening trends in e-commerce, and an uncertain macroeconomic environment.



For 4Q22e, PayPal expects total revenue to grow 7% YoY (9% YoY in constant currency) to US$7.4bn (Figure 1). The management attributes the soft revenue guidance to the slowing e-commerce market and early indications that low/middle-income level consumers are cutting back on their discretionary spending. Additionally, PayPal isn’t witnessing signs of an early start to the holiday season as occurred last year. PayPal expects to add 2.3mn to 4.3mn net new active accounts (implied).


For FY23e, PayPal expects e-commerce growth to remain under pressure but highlighted its confidence to deliver 100bps of adj. operating margin improvement and to grow adj. EPS by at least 15% YoY. This is mainly because non-transactional operating expenses are expected to remain flat or fall slightly YoY.

PayPal Holdings Inc – Two-sided network effect getting stronger


Company Background

Spun off from eBay in July 2015, PayPal Holdings Inc (PYPL) is a global provider of digital and mobile payment solutions. The company’s two-sided platform serves nearly 426mn active accounts in over 200 markets. Its payment solutions include PayPal, Venmo, Xoom and Honey. PayPal generates nearly 90% of its total revenues from transaction revenues.


Investment Merits

  1. PayPal’s two-sided network is a key competitive advantage. PayPal’s active accounts grew by 13% YoY to 426mn in FY21, while it added 197mn net new accounts over the last four years. This is mainly due to its two-sided platform that serves both consumers and businesses. This allows PayPal to leverage consumer information to boost sales for merchants by providing shopping deals for its digital wallet users. PayPal's total payments volume (TPV) has also spiked to US$1.2tn in FY21 from US$578bn in FY18 due to a larger user base and an increased number of payment transactions. We expect PayPal to continue double-digit revenue growth of 13% over the next 2 years due to network effects and secular trends in the payment industry, including increasing digital payments adoption and the rise of online shopping.
  2. PayPal helps to boost checkout conversion rates/sales for merchants. Online merchants witness a higher conversion rate as consumers who choose PayPal Checkout as a payment method are less likely to abandon their cart due to a better buying experience through stored credentials. The company boasts conversion rates of 80%-90% compared to an industry average of ~50%. That value proposition help PayPal to partner with nearly 75% of the top 1,500 retailers in North America and Europe, including Walmart, Shopify, and PayPal also offers working capital loans to its merchants which contributes to increased merchant sales and thereby surge in volume of payments processed. We believe that new products and services such as QR Code payments and Buy Now Pay Later should also help improve checkout conversion for merchants and increase customer engagement with PayPal digital wallet.
  3. Venmo monetization to support growth. Initially allowing peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfers with friends and family, Venmo now keeps on adding features to its app. Users can now create business profiles to accept payments, pay for purchases at over 2mn PayPal merchants across the U.S, and buy/sell cryptocurrencies. Venmo’s total payments volume surged 45% YoY to US$230.1bn in FY21. We believe that another significant milestone for Venmo's growth will be its partnership with Amazon, under which Amazon will accept Venmo payments on its platform.


We initiate coverage with a BUY rating. Our target price is US$116 based on a DCF valuation with a WACC of 7.0% and terminal growth of 4.0%.



PayPal has two revenue segments: Transaction revenues (92% of FY21 revenues) and revenues from other value-added services (8%). Transaction revenues are generated from fees charged to consumers and merchants based on the total payments volume (TPV). Other value-added services include revenue from subscription fees, partnerships, referral fees, and interest earned on loan receivables or certain customer balances.


Total revenue expanded at 18% CAGR in the past four years (Figure 1) to US$25.4bn in FY21.

Over FY18-21, PayPal’s TPV rose at a CAGR of 29% to US$1.3tn in FY21 (Figure 2). The growth was mainly driven by the number of active users, merchant acceptance, and the secular shift towards digital payments and e-commerce. PayPal generates revenues from operations in several regions, primarily the US (54% of FY21 revenues) and the UK (9%) (Figure 3).

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