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MercadoLibre Is Changing the Way Latin Americans Shop—and Pay

The region’s dominant e-commerce platform makes a big move into financial services.

A MercadoLibre fulfillment center in São Paulo.

A MercadoLibre fulfillment center in São Paulo.

Photographer: Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg

When Latin American cities began locking down in March 2020, it seemed like an existential crisis for MercadoLibre Inc., the region’s dominant e-commerce platform. Sales slowed to a trickle—for about a week. Then they bounced back, and soon they were above where they’d been a year earlier.

MercadoLibre’s e-commerce revenue grew 90% in 2020 as Covid accelerated the shift toward online shopping, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. The number of buyers on its marketplace grew 40%, to 65 million, in the 12 months ended on March 31. “We moved forward three to five years, depending on the country,” says Marcos Galperin, the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “There’s no going back.”