Don't bury eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY ) . It's not dead yet.
The company behind the PayPal financial-transactions platform, its eponymous auction site, and the Skype Web-based voice-chat service came through with a better-than-expected quarter. Revenue climbed 24% to $2.2 billion. Earnings rose by 22% to $0.34 a share, or $0.42 a share on an adjusted basis.
Analysts were willing to settle for a non-GAAP profit of $0.39 a share on just $2.1 billion in revenue.
Several factors inflated the numbers, like a lower tax rate and favorable currency translations, but it was still a good quarter, especially for PayPal fans.
It's hard not to love PayPal. Dot-com heavies such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) -- and even banking giants such as Citigroup (NYSE: C ) and Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC ) -- have tried to take on the online-payment service over the year, with humbling results.
PayPal is just too popular, as was clearly evident during the latest quarter. The number of active accounts clocked in 17% higher, yet the total payment volume soared by 34%, to $14.4 billion. In other words, people are leaning on PayPal even more with every passing quarter.
This is the first time I've ever discussed PayPal's results before eBay, and I'd better get used to it. Even though the site built on last year's final quarter, with year-over-year listings growing (unlike the year-over-year dips during last year's second and third quarters), the actual growth in gross merchandise value that swapped hands on the site rose a mere 12%.
There isn't an eBay killer on the horizon. Free sites such as Craigslist have been around for years, and cheaper auction outlets such as Overstock.com (Nasdaq: OSTK ) and Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) have never made much of a dent. However, eBay.com is a shell of its former self, even if 55% of its revenue is now coming from outside the United States.
Skype is still hot, with revenue soaring 61% to $126 million, but it may never justify the lofty price that eBay shelled out for the leading voice chat platform. With 309 million users, Skype has a larger member base than eBay itself -- it's just a lot harder to monetize.
eBay is also raising its guidance for 2008. It's looking to earn $1.70 to $1.75 a share in adjusted earnings -- just ahead of the $1.68 a share that Wall Street was looking for -- on $8.7 billion to $9.0 billion in revenue.
With enough powerful subordinates to pick up any slack from eBay's namesake site coasts, the auction maven's certainly still breathing. Now, the new management team will have to elevate it back to "alive and kicking."
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