Is Now The Time to Scoop Up Pagaya Shares at a Discount?

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Written By Jackson Hartwell

Pagaya (PGY) has faced a challenging year, with its shares down 28% due to concerns over mounting losses and continuous capital needs. However, management has recently outlined a plan to achieve breakeven on a net cash flow basis by early 2025.

While this path to profitability presents significant challenges and may require a trade-off with growth, a successful pivot could substantially boost PGY’s shares by addressing market doubts about its business model.

Business Profile

Credits: DepositPhotos

Founded in 2016, Pagaya operates at the intersection of traditional banking and fintech. Its core product is a software platform that automates credit decisions for loan applications.

Initially likely designed for a Software as a Service (SaaS) business model, Pagaya’s product evolved due to the advancements traditional banks made in leveraging AI and big data for loan processing.

As a result, PGY adopted a hybrid model, blending elements of a software company and an investment bank, thereby inheriting the shortcomings of both industries without fully capitalizing on their advantages.

Pagaya positions itself between banks, which originate loans, and institutional investors, who purchase these assets. Using its proprietary software, Pagaya reviews loan applications initially rejected by its banking partners, underwriting those that match its investors’ profiles.

This process, often referred to as a ‘second look,’ typically results in approving 1% to 2% of the total loans passed by its partners.

Pagaya’s Business Model:

  1. Loan Application Submission: Consumers submit applications to their preferred lending institutions.
  2. Application Transmission: Partners send the application to Pagaya’s network via an API plug-in.
  3. Credit Decisioning: Pagaya uses its technology to deliver a recommendation in real-time.
  4. Loan Funding and Placement: Pagaya facilitates the funding and placement of assets with long-term institutional investors.

Implications of Pagaya’s Unique Business Model

Pagaya’s hybrid business model has several key financial implications:

  1. Lack of Economies of Scale: Unlike typical SaaS companies, PGY does not benefit from economies of scale as its revenue increases. This is because its fee revenue is non-recurring and directly tied to the volume of loans originated. Consequently, production costs rise in tandem with loan volumes, resulting in relatively flat gross margins despite scaling revenues.
  2. Capital-Intensive Growth: Pagaya’s growth is capital-intensive due to substantial upfront costs required for onboarding new banking partners and integrating their systems. These costs drive surges in R&D and SG&A expenses during periods of rapid revenue growth, even as revenue from new customers gradually ramps up.

Financial Performance and Challenges

Pagaya’s primary challenge is its escalating capital needs. Post-2008 financial crisis regulations require loan originators to retain 5% of the loans they issue to align their interests with customers.

For Pagaya, this translates into holding a growing portion of sub-prime loans on its balance sheet, increasing debt levels and impairment charges. Last year, Pagaya incurred a $134 million impairment charge on its $812 million loan portfolio. In Q1 2024, impairments amounted to $27 million on a $1.036 billion portfolio.

Limited Access to Capital

Unlike traditional banks, which benefit from low-cost customer deposits, Pagaya relies on borrowing and equity financing. This dependence has led to consistent cash outflows and increasing debt, raising concerns about its business model.

The Path Forward: Potential and Risks

Pagaya’s potential lies in its ability to expand margins enough to cover both the Risk Retention requirement and capital needed for growth. Management has recently implemented layoffs and plans to focus on high-margin loans.

A significant part of their strategy involves ‘optimizing capital efficiency’ by finding ways to lower Risk Retention requirements from 5% to 2%-3%.

However, this path is fraught with challenges. The company projects a network volume between $9 billion and $10.5 billion in 2024, translating to revenue between $900 million to $1.05 billion.

With gross profit margins between 34% and 39%, Fee Revenue Less Production Cost (FRLPC) is expected to be between $306 million and $409 million. Even if Risk Retention is reduced to 2%-3%, the capital requirement would be $180-$315 million, leaving a narrow margin for error.

Challenges and Concerns Remain

Credits: DepositPhotos

Pagaya offers a compelling yet risky investment opportunity. While impressive growth potential exists, concerns about its reliance on debt financing, high impairment charges, scalability challenges, and business model vulnerabilities cannot be ignored.

Management’s strategy to achieve cash flow breakeven by early 2025 offers a potential stock rebound, but numerous execution-related risks remain.

Investors should tread cautiously, recognizing the high stakes and potential rewards in Pagaya’s journey towards profitability. The path to breakeven is fraught with challenges, but if successful, Pagaya could significantly reward those willing to take the risk.



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