eBay Beats Estimates, Raises Guidance

eBay's first quarter lived up to expectations, and then some. Not only did it come in ahead of consensus estimates, but management also raised revenue guidance for the second and third quarters. Billpoint, eBay Motors, and the new Buy It Now feature contributed to the optimism.

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By Rex Moore (TMF Orangeblood)
April 19, 2001

eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) must have been feeling the pressure. Buoyed by a rising market -- helped along by the Fed's surprise rate cut yesterday and several good earnings reports from beleaguered companies -- investors seemed to be expecting it to deliver a solid quarter. After all, the world's number one online auction company had steered clear of the land mines that had caught so many tech companies over the last few weeks. No warnings of missed estimates, no lowered guidance. Heck, a Forbes.com headline today blurted: "eBay Must Impress Spooked Investors." Tough to live up to that, right?

Apparently not. eBay reported first-quarter consolidated net income, excluding certain non-cash and stock related charges, of $30.6 million, or $0.11 a share. That exceeded the consensus estimate by three cents. Consolidated revenue of $154.1 million represents an increase of 79% over the year ago period.

The most telling news, however, is eBay's outlook for the next couple of quarters. Citing strength in newer lines of the business, such as Billpoint and eBay Motors, management expects net revenue to be as much as $10 to $15 million higher than expected through the third quarter. When's the last time you heard of a business guiding higher?

President and CEO Meg Whitman said, "Across all important metrics, we had a great quarter. It's very exciting to see more and more buyers and sellers discovering the value of eBay's global marketplace."

Some of those important metrics include:

  • Gross margin of 82%, up from 73% in the first quarter last year
  • Gross merchandise sales of $1.98 billion, up 72% from last year and 23% from last quarter
  • A registered user base of 29.7 million, up 7.2 million from last quarter
  • 89 million auctions listed during the quarter, an improvement of 12% sequentially and 66% year over year

Any concern about slowing growth in the auction count this quarter should be tempered by a couple of factors. First, eBay raised its listing fees a couple of months ago... something that always has a dampening effect on the number of auctions listed. Second, the new (and very successful) Buy It Now (BIN) feature -- where customers can pay a fixed price for an item before a bid is placed -- has caused many auctions to end early. That obviously cuts downs on the number of auctions that are listed at any one time. The BIN option is being offered on nearly 30% of all auctions.

eBay also announced an expansion of Half.com today, the service that allows customers to buy items like books and videos in a fixed-price, "reverse-auction" format. Half.com will now extend its offerings to include consumer electronic items, computers, trading cards, and sporting goods.

Since Mark McGwire went on the DL again, Rex Moore no longer thinks he has much of a shot at Hank Aaron's record. Rex owned shares of eBay at the time of this writing. You can view his holdings and the Fool's disclosure policy online.

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