The leaders of e-commerce veteran eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) have proven extremely skilled at buying businesses with growth potential and then nurturing them. But in the views of hedge funds Elliott Management and Starboard Value -- both of which hold significant stakes in eBay -- its core auction business doesn't exactly provide the best connective tissue linking all those valuable pieces together. In short, they want spinoffs.
In this segment from the Motley Fool Money podcast, host Chris Hill and Fool senior analysts Aaron Bush, Ron Gross, and Jason Moser consider whether eBay really will spin off StubHub and its classified business and whether they would invest in those units if given the chance.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Jan. 25, 2019.
Chris Hill: eBay's fourth quarter report comes out next Tuesday, but shares are up nearly 10% this week when activist investors publicly called on eBay to consider selling off its Classifieds business as well as StubHub. Aaron, their conference call just got a lot more interesting.
Aaron Bush: Oh, yeah! Lots of ways that this could go. But really, I'm not surprised to see this happening. As we talked about earlier this week, what eBay does a great job of is buying these companies early on. Buying PayPal, fantastic! Buying StubHub, fantastic! Spinning out the Classifieds business, fantastic! But, as it turns out, eBay, the core marketplace platform, is really bad as a connection point for all of these different things. They don't go together very well. In the case of StubHub in particular, it makes a lot of sense that we could see logical pressure be put on them and StubHub does go stand-alone.
The Classifieds business I'm not sure of. I feel like people buying and selling goods and services, even if it's more international, that still connects into the core eBay business. It'll be interesting to see how open-minded the CEO is, what tone he takes in their earnings call to determine how eBay attacks this situation.
Hill: In the lead-up to eBay spinning off PayPal, there were a lot of people-I think including all four of us -- who were pretty excited for PayPal to be a stand-alone company and to own shares of that. If they end up spinning off StubHub, is that a business that you're putting on your watchlist?
Bush: It's probably a good business because ticket fees are exorbitant no matter where you go. If you have to buy tickets to something that you're interested in, you can only get it so many places. But what I think could happen with StubHub is that they could be acquired yet again by someone in the music industry to create a more complete music ecosystem. Live is more important in music than ever before. But, it also could get someone a starting foothold in sports ticketing, as well. It could be Amazon, it could be Sirius XM. Spotify might even have some partnership in there somehow. If one deal is made, it could be the beginning of a snowball.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Aaron Bush owns shares of Amazon and PayPal Holdings. Chris Hill owns shares of Amazon, eBay, and PayPal Holdings. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and PayPal Holdings. The Motley Fool recommends eBay. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.