In the final quarter of 2020, PayPal (PYPL) gained 16 million in net new active accounts and handled $277 billion in total payment volume.
Customers who purchased crypto through the platform have been logging into PayPal twice as much as they were before buying crypto, the company said in its investor update.
PayPal's transaction revenue increased by around 12% from Q3 to $5.7 billion. The company also notes it will recognize transaction revenue from its crypto buys, sell and hold product, but it will not include transactions related to crypto in its total payment volume.
Notably, PayPal’s spending in technology increased year over year by more than 30% to $732 million.
“The volume of crypto traded on our platform greatly exceeded our projections,” PayPal CEO Dan Schulman said on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call. “We’re excited to build on this early success by allowing customers to use their crypto balance as a funding source. … We hope to launch our first international market in the next several months.”
PayPal has been working with regulators and central banks to shape the “next generation of the financial system,” Schulman added.
The company is also investing in its crypto business unit, Schulman said.
In response to an analyst question about possible acquisitions while digital asset prices are high, PayPal Chief Financial Officer John Rainey said that the firm’s appetite for acquisitions is a “multi-year” strategy, but that it’s in a good position to make one.
“We are unique in the fintech ecosystem as we enjoy outsized growth rates and are profitable,” Rainey said. “That allows us the ability to have this asset where we can look at inorganic opportunities to complement what we’re doing.”
PayPal’s network of merchants may be more valuable than the trading services it can offer, said James Friedman, senior fintech research analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group.
Crypto trading for other companies like Square (SQ) has not been “that profitable,” Friedman said.
“Basically, Square offers crypto as a service and they make the market but they don’t really mark it up,” Friedman said. “Trading is interesting but it’s not nearly as interesting to us as a payments acceptance device. … [PayPal has] incredible merchant volume.”
Because of how difficult it is to use bitcoin as a regular means of payment, Susquehanna, which is a market maker in PayPal securities, has been exploring the issue in surveys.
In December 2020, Susquehanna surveyed more than 120 small to medium-sized business owners to poll their interest in adopting bitcoin payments.
More than 70% of respondents said they would accept bitcoin for payment at checkout if PayPal or Square enabled it, but around half of respondents said they believed there would be no impact on their business if they added the feature.
More than half of respondents said the risk of fraud would be the main reason why they wouldn’t accept bitcoin for goods and services (as opposed to bitcoin volatility or tax issues).
Susquehanna also surveyed more than a 100 American adults on attitudes toward cryptocurrencies, current usage of cryptocurrencies and their likelihood to use them in payment transactions. They found that nearly half of respondents would not purchase a product or service with cryptocurrency, while 5.5% of them would do so 10 or more times per year.
UPDATE (Feb. 3, 22:27 UTC): Adds comments from PayPal CEO Dan Schulman on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call.
UPDATE (Feb. 3, 23:10 UTC): Adds comments from PayPal CFO that the company is in a good position to make an acquisition.
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