PayPal Posts Record Growth, Touts Crypto Buying

  • The company's total payment volume in Q1 eclipsed the Q4 holiday season
  • PayPal is enjoying tailwinds of e-commerce and digital wallet adoption

PayPal went on a tear last year as the fintech giant notched record profits, revenue and user growth—trends that are carrying over into 2021. On Wednesday, the company announced Q1 revenues of  $6.03 billion and earnings per share of $1.22, which handily beat analysts' predictions of $1.01.

Also remarkable is that PayPal's results showed total payment volume growing from $277 billion in Q4 to $285 billion in Q1—a highly unusual event given that payment volumes typically drop significantly in the months following the holiday season.

The earnings release saw PayPal's share price jump over 5% in after hours trading to around $260 per share.

The latest results, which reflect a year over year revenue growth of 31%, are a result of PayPal benefiting from the same tailwinds as last year—namely, a pandemic-driven uptick in e-commerce and digital wallet adoption, and a new embrace by merchants of novel payment platforms.

"Our strong first quarter results demonstrate sustained momentum in our business as the world shifts into the digital economy," said CEO Dan Schulman in a statement.

PayPal's stellar performance was also reflected in a record addition of 14.5 million new active accounts, which included 1.5 million new merchant accounts, bring total merchant accounts to 31 million worldwide. Overall, the company now has 392 million active accounts. PayPal also updated its guidance for the rest of 2021, predicting it will add a total of 52-55 million new accounts this year.

Meanwhile, the company has made major strides into the cryptocurrency world, offering users the ability to buy and sell Bitcoin and Ethereum, and expanding crypto payments to merchants. More recently, PayPal added crypto buying and selling to its popular peer-to-peer Venmo app.

On an investor call late Wednesday afternoon, Schulman noted PayPal closed the acquisition of crypto security firm Curv last month. More broadly, he repeated his earlier observation that the technology underlying the globe's financial infrastructure is evolving rapidly.

"Both cryptocurrencies and central bank issued digital currencies can play a critical role in shaping a more inclusive recovery and a more equitable financial system," said Schulman, later adding that PayPal studies predict half of customers expect to use cryptocurrency in the future. He also noted that noted that half of PayPal's crypto customers open the app every day.

In response to an analyst questions about CBDCs—central bank digital currencies—Schulman said the company has been in discussion with governments around the world. He noted that the rate of adoption of CBDCs will vary from country to country, but that every government views digital fiat currencies as part of their future.

More broadly, PayPal is in the midst of experimenting with a variety of blockchain payment tools and trying to fashion its platform into a "super app" for activities ranging from shopping to banking.

This story was updated several times to included details of PayPal's analyst calls.