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Shopify soars after beating estimates for ninth quarter

[TORONTO] Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify Inc soared the most in almost a year and a half after beating analysts' revenue estimates for a ninth quarter in a row, boosting the forecast for the current quarter and signing up a record number of new merchants.

The second-quarter earnings report Tuesday burnished the Ottawa-based company's reputation as a stock market darling that can seemingly do no wrong.

The company booked US$151.7 million in sales, beating the average analyst estimate of US$144.3 million and its own forecast of US$142 million to US$144 million. The shares gained as much as 15 per cent to US$105.79, the most since February 2016, pushing Shopify's market cap to more than US$10 billion. That's more than major Canadian retailers Canadian Tire Corp Ltd and Metro Inc. Shopify is the best performing stock on Canada's benchmark equity index, gaining 122 per cent this year.

Some analysts, from firms including Royal Bank of Canada and Goldman Sachs Group Inc, have lowered their ratings on the stock recently, after such gains have made it one of the most expensive software stocks.

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Shopify, which provides tools for merchants to sell online through their own websites and multiple third-party marketplaces including Amazon.com Inc and EBay Inc, doesn't yet turn a profit. Still, its loss of 1 US cent a share was smaller than the average analyst estimate of a loss of 7 US cents on the same basis.

Shopify also said it hit 500,000 customers during the quarter, with clients ranging from individuals selling handmade goods to web stores for major brands like Budweiser and Tesla. Chief Executive Officer Tobi Lutke ended a conference call with analysts expressing his own excitement about the milestone.

"500,000 merchants is just such a crazy number," Mr Lutke said. "I have lots of stories about being laughed out of VC offices because they told me the entire addressable market for my company was 40,000 stores."

Shopify's growth comes as more retail spending shifts online from physical stores, prompting a new wave of brick-and-mortar bankruptcies. The company is adding and growing new revenue streams, such as giving loans to its customers to help them grow and poaching bigger, more established customers from competitors like privately-held Magento.

The number of merchants shows growth of about 67 per cent from the same period last year, when Shopify had some 300,000 customers. Average annual growth since 2012 has been 74 per cent, the company said. Keeping up such a rapid pace will become harder though, Mr Lutke said in a separate interview.

"To make growth even static you have to grow exponentially. That is the funny thing when you talk to everyone about percentages," he said. "I don't know how much longer we can keep that going."

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