eBay Hits the "Buy It Now" Button

Well played, eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) . Instead of simply buying a piece of South Korea's leading online marketplace, eBay will swallow all of Gmarket (Nasdaq: GMKT  ) .

The $1.2 billion deal finds eBay paying $24 a share to Gmarket investors. eBay already has a majority of the stock pledged in favor of the offer -- including Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) 10% -- so now it's just a formality of gaining final Korean antitrust clearance. The companies expect the deal to close this quarter.

After serving as the gateway for $3.2 billion worth of transactions in South Korea last year, it's easy to see why Gmarket became an attractive buyout candidate. eBay's own entry -- auction.co.kr -- is no slouch, having enabled $2.2 billion worth of deals in the country. However, eBay would never be the dominant player in the world's sixth-largest e-commerce market. By the end of this quarter, it will be.

The move is a surprise, because eBay has typically settled for minority stakes in rival exchanges like Craigslist and MercadoLibre (Nasdaq: MELI  ) . Sure, 25% is all that it could have feasibly gotten from Craigslist, but why settle for just a piece of MercadoLibre?

MercadoLibre's stock opened just marginally higher, but one has to wonder whether eBay begins knocking on the door of the South American speedster, too. Loading up on foreign winners would also be a good way to deflect criticism over eBay's shortcomings closer to home.

I recommended shares of Gmarket to Motley Fool Rule Breakers subscribers last year. I can appreciate being taken out at a premium -- especially when the S&P 500 has tanked by 38% in that time -- although I still believe that Gmarket would have been worth more than today's $24 buyout price in the long run.

That's the upside of picking disruptive growth stocks. One of my first recommendations for the growth stock newsletter -- ProFlowers.com parent Provide Commerce -- was bought less than a year later by Liberty Media (Nasdaq: LINTA  ) . Fool co-founder David Gardner's pick of online exchange Archipelago Holdings was absorbed into the NYSE Euronext (NYSE: NYX  ) bloodstream. My pick of CNET Networks was acquired by media giant CBS (NYSE: CBS  ) .

Naturally, there are risks when it comes to investing in fast-growing stocks. The risks are only amplified when you're buying into foreign darlings like Gmarket and MercadoLibre. However, as long as there are larger cash-rich companies looking for an extra boost -- and investors willing to reward earnings growth with market premiums -- it's an area that risk-tolerant shareholders shouldn't ignore.

MercadoLibre is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection. eBay is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick and a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Gmarket, MercadoLibre, and NYSE Euronext are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. Take an in-depth look at all that these Foolish newsletters have to offer, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a longtime eBay user with 177 positive feedbacks to show for it. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its defiance. The Fool's disclosure policy learned its lesson about scratching its nose during an auction.


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