How Much Did it Cost StoneCo to Lose its CFO?

StoneCo Ltd., the Brazilian payments firm that shed about $26 billion in market value since peaking last year, slumped further Friday after losing its chief financial officer as higher interest rates crimp earnings

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By Vinícius Andrade and Felipe Marques
August 19, 2022 | 04:18 PM

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Bloomberg — StoneCo Ltd. (STNE), the Brazilian payments firm that shed about $26 billion in market value since peaking last year, slumped further Friday after losing its chief financial officer as higher interest rates crimp earnings.

Marcelo Baldin, who’s held the CFO role for five years, is leaving the firm, Stone said in a statement, the latest in a string of board and top management changes. Board member Silvio Morais will take over the company’s finances temporarily. The departure comes at a difficult time. After a foray into lending backfired and its stock collapsed, Stone has been raising the prices it charges businesses to accept payments.

“We’re swimming against the tide of higher funding costs and our financial expenses rose significantly in the second quarter,” Rafael Martins, the company’s vice president of finance and investor relations officer, said in an interview.

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Shares fell as much as 23% at the open Friday. High financial expenses are constraining profitability, while a new management transition “leaves us somewhat cautious,” Wells Fargo analyst Jeff Cantwell wrote in a note, reaffirming an equal weight rating but trimming his price target to $10 from $11.

Brazil’s benchmark interest rates has surged by 11.75 percentage points since March 2021, as policy makers struggle to tame inflation. For Stone, that meant aggressively raising prices to maintain profitability, even after surging bad loans led it to completely halt credit origination last year.

“Investors grew skeptical following the issues faced by our credit business in the past, while the sharp increase in global interest rates sent fintech multiples lower,” Martins said. “Now everybody is in wait-and-see mode, waiting for the companies to deliver before taking action.”

He said price increases will continue in the current quarter, at a faster pace than in the preceding period but shy of the major adjustment made at the beginning of the year.

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The effort to win back trust involved management and board changes. Co-founder Eduardo Pontes left the board this year and moved to swap his super-voting shares for regular stock. Marcus Fontoura, formerly of Microsoft Corp., was named chief technology officer to replace Edson Brandi. And Thomas Gregor Ilg is joining from Banco Santander SA’s Brazilian unit to focus on the battered credit business.

Adjusted net income for the three-month period ended in June came in at 76.5 million reais ($14.8 million), the company said Thursday in a filing, missing the 82.2 million-real average estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Active clients grew above 2 million from 1.9 million in the first quarter.

Martins said Stone stopped adjusting earnings for expenses tied to a bond issued last year, which helps explain the profit miss. Total revenue and income was 2.3 billion reais in the second quarter, slightly above estimates of 2.2 billion reais, on stronger-than-expected payment volume of 90.7 billion reais.

Revenues also got a boost from the company’s price-increase strategy, while the profit miss “was driven mainly by higher financial expenses,” Citi analyst Gabriel Gusan wrote in a note.

The company is sticking to its plan to test its revamped credit product by the end of the year and ramp it up in 2023, chief strategy officer Lia Matos said in an interview.

Read more at Bloomberg.com