Gmarket: The Better eBay

Proving that its third-quarter slip was a mere blip, Gmarket (Nasdaq: GMKT  ) is back on a bull-horned growth tear again.

South Korea's leading online marketplace saw fourth-quarter profits nearly double to $0.26 a share, as revenue climbed 41%  to $71.8 million. Earnings came in $0.03 a share ahead of expectations, though the top line clocked in a little short.

Either way, it's a far cry from the respective top- and bottom-line spurts of 26% and 7% with which Gmarket spooked investors  three months ago. The company pointed to apparel-specific trends that would spill over favorably into the seasonally spiked fourth quarter -- and it was right.

At least one company means what it says in South Korea. I mention that only because I called out Gmarket rival eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) last month for claiming that it's gaining ground on Gmarket.

"We're pleased about our performance in Korea, where we believe we've significantly narrowed the gap with our main competitor over the last three or four quarters," eBay CFO Bob Swan noted during January's conference call.

He pointed to the company's 33% improvement in gross merchandise value (GMV) in South Korea during the quarter. However, Gmarket's GMV climbed by 42% during the period. Even a mathematically mediocre kindergartner can tell you that the numbers imply a widening -- not narrowing -- gap.

Gmarket, a recent Rule Breakers newsletter recommendation, is making headlines these days. It's one of the ballyhooed Asian investments in Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) war chest. There have been published reports of Interpark selling its 29% stake in Gmarket at a healthy premium, which Gmarket addressed during last night's call. The company is also slowly expanding into Japan, with calculated expenditures, much like China's Baidu.com (Nasdaq: BIDU  ) efforts to enter the Japanese search-engine market.

As far as foreign marketplaces go, Gmarket may not be growing as quickly as Latin America's MercadoLibre (Nasdaq: MELI  ) , but it's also trading at a much lower market valuation. Now trading at just 25 times this year's estimates -- and clearly growing significantly faster than that -- Gmarket is a compelling value, headlines or not.


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