After its IPO almost exactly a year ago, Upstart (UPST) rallied 1900% to an all-time high of $401 in October. Having fallen to around $120, it feels like many people on Wall Street have given it up for dead. That’s the kind of opportunity we like to capture, suggests Todd Shaver, editor of Bull Market Report.
Yes, Upstart — a relatively conservative favorite for 2022 — clearly got a little ahead of itself in an environment where the Fed made sure everyone had free money to burn. But the company is more than a figment of the COVID era. It was expanding fast before the lockdowns and we doubt the pandemic really accelerated its disruptive trajectory.
If anything, revenue capture in key consumer finance segments like auto loans might have actually slowed down in the viral shocks. Either way, UPST is now booking more revenue in a single quarter than it did in the entirety of fiscal 2020 and turns about 25% of it into good old EBITDA.
The number of banks using its technology rippled in the past year. So did revenue and profit. Given that growth rate and those margins, we don’t consider the stock expensive at all, even in a non-zero-rate world. Neither did backers like Mark Cuban, Eric Schmidt, Vinod Khosla and Marc Benioff.
The secret weapon here is completely automated loan approval driven by Big Data, effectively starting the process where conventional credit scores give up. FICO beware! We’re hearing that many banks are abandoning the old score-driven process entirely.
With massive predictive datasets getting more accurate all the time, an expansive business model and economies of scale starting to kick in, UPST has a bright future ahead.
The company has a clean balance sheet with $1 billion in cash to cover $720 million in debt and a small but fast-growing customer base of banks that love the technology. UPST isn’t going away. And when Wall Street is ready to embrace disruption again, we’ll be here waiting for the next run to $400 and beyond.