A Look into eBay's Future

Will mobile apps do wonders for eBay?

Jan 13, 2014 at 4:55PM

The online-retail market in the US continues to grow rapidly. As a result, eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) are innovating their mobile applications to get the most out of this growing market.

Let's see where eBay is heading and how it stacks up with its rivals.

Third-quarter report
In the third quarter, eBay reported per-share earnings of $0.53, which represents an increase of 17.7% from the comparable quarter last year. Revenue also rose 14% from the year-ago quarter and stood at $3.9 billion. Total enabled commerce volume, or ECV, jumped 21% to $52 billion as the company kept on performing well in all segments.

eBay's Marketplaces segment delivered a strong performance, with revenue jumping 12% to $2 billion. Active users for Marketplaces also rose 14% to 124 million, which was largely attributed to the company providing free shipping on more than half of US transactions. Marketplaces' popularity continued to rise as the total selection of items increased to more than 500 million listings.

PayPal continued to remain strong by contributing more than 40% of eBay's sales. PayPal's revenue increased by 19% to $1.6 billion, while total payment volume grew 25% to $44 billion. The company benefited from the success of the enhanced PayPal consumer app as the active registered accounts for PayPal increased 17% to 137 million.

As far as eBay Enterprise was concerned, its revenue grew 5% to $238 million. Its commerce technologies drove $787 million in merchandise sales, representing a 13% year-over-year increase. Also, eBay Enterprise helped its clients grow same-store sales by almost 13%.

What is eBay up to?
In the third quarter, volume for mobile-enabled commerce rose by a staggering 75%. eBay continues to regard mobile transactions as a high-growth segment. For this reason, the company is investing heavily in its apps for Apple's iOS and Google's Android. As part of this plan, eBay recently acquired Braintree, a Chicago-based payment-processing company. Through this acquisition, the company will be able to benefit from Braintree's app, Venmo, which lets customers make payments from smartphones and tablets. This will make sure that eBay's growth in online payment solutions remains on track.

PayPal's President, David Marucs, has also highlighted the fact that mobile transactions will transform the e-commerce industry, and iOS and Android will be the forces behind that revolution. According to Marcus, the company's latest innovation, PayPal Beacon, will reinvent the in-store shopping experience for customers. Beacon, based on Bluetooth low-energy, or BLE, technology, will provide a complete hands-free experience to consumers while they pay at their favorite outlets. The customers will just need to have the PayPal app installed in their phones along with the BLE hardware, while the store will need a BLE dongle provided by PayPal. The customers will be greeted at check-in and only a verbal confirmation will be needed when they pay at check-out. No card, no wallet, the customers won't even have to touch their phones to provide payments.

eBay has a high operating margin of 21% in comparison with the industry average of 16%, which shows that the company generates healthy profits on its revenue. eBay's debt-to-equity ratio is 19.90, which is less than the industry average of 23.70; this indicates that its borrowed capital is on the lower side.

Low price-to-free cash flow of 16.32 and price-to-book value of 2.94 strengthens my belief that eBay is a value stock. Furthermore, the company's low forward price-to-earnings of 16.9 signifies that it's a good bargain at this moment. 

Online retail giant Amazon posted $17.09 billion in revenue for its fourth quarter, representing a 24% year-over-year increase. Amazon expects a lot from its technology business, therefore it is investing heavily in its Kindle Fire tablets and cloud computing services. This January, the company will expand its cloud computing services to China, which it expects to be a big growth catalyst. As the company keeps on growing, it expects its fourth quarter revenue to be in the range of $23.5-$26.5 billion. For the year, the company expects double-digit revenue growth as its sales keep on rising. Considering all of this, Amazon appears to be in great shape.

In the third quarter, Overstock.com missed its earnings expectations by $0.01 and posted EPS of $0.14. Earnings, however, did grow 27% from the year-ago quarter. Sales were also up by 18% to $301.4 million. The company's sales and marketing expenses jumped by 51%, forcing its operating margin downward.

The Web Marketing Association recently named Overstock's app for Android the best mobile retail application. Overstock, like eBay, knows the importance of mobile apps for future growth as it has continued to improve its Android app which now has simplified browsing, sharper images and better search options. As the app gets more popular, the company expects more revenue in the future.

Final thoughts
eBay's third-quarter report shows that the company's revenue is still growing as it keeps on increasing its active member count. eBay's latest innovation, PayPal Beacon, promises to attract customers in large numbers as it's a one-of-a-kind product in the industry. The company is seeking to benefit from its mobile apps, which are set to become the catalysts for future growth. eBay's latest acquisition of Venmo will make sure that it remains ahead of its competitors in the mobile app world, as more user-friendly apps mean more revenue for the company. All-in-all, eBay has a great online platform that will spur high returns in the future. Taking all this into consideration, I believe that eBay presents a good investment opportunity at this point in time.

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Zahid Waheed has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Apple, eBay, and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, eBay, and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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