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eBay Earnings: What to Watch

By Demitri Kalogeropoulos – Jul 25, 2020 at 8:38AM

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The e-commerce giant will likely post surging sales growth as the coronavirus pushed more spending online.

Investor enthusiasm is rising ahead of the second-quarter earnings report from eBay (EBAY -1.47%). The stock of the online marketplace has soared by over 50% so far in 2020 to roughly match Amazon's rally. eBay is also running well ahead of more-integrated e-commerce peers like Walmart (WMT -0.27%).

That performance gap will be put to the test when the company announces its results on Tuesday, July 28. The report should show benefits from rising demand as consumers boosted their online spending in April, May, and June. But there's a wide range of potential trends eBay could reveal, especially when it comes to any updated growth outlook.

With that in mind, let's look at a few numbers to follow on Tuesday.

A woman shopping online on her laptop.

Image source: Getty Images.

Great expectations

eBay's first-quarter report in late April contained hints of accelerating sales growth through the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Management said at the time that shopper traffic, sales volumes, and conversion rates all began to rise during stay-at-home time in markets like Europe and North America. We'll learn this week where those figures landed for the full quarter, and how eBay's growth compares with its first-quarter metrics. For context, sales volumes were flat in Q1 as the active buyer pool grew by a sluggish 2%.

Walmart's last report implies solid gains for eBay, given that Walmart saw its e-commerce segment soar in the month of April. Yes, eBay lacks the retailing titan's physical footprint, and it focuses more on discretionary goods over staples like groceries, but investors are still expecting eBay's management to reveal much faster volume growth of around 25% this week.

Attracting more sellers

Sellers usually follow buyers onto a marketplace platform, and that's one big reason why eBay's pool of small-business partners is expanding. The company said in early June that its buyer base was spiking thanks to increased demand across all its biggest segments, including home and garden and consumer electronics. The company tried to capitalize on the extra attention by offering discounted selling fees, and we'll learn about how that initiative impacted the buyer pool this week.

eBay's asset-light operating model could deliver outsize profit growth in this environment. Higher volumes will give it room to raise fees over time, for example. The company's operating margin is already far higher than Walmart's at 29% of sales, and it likely improved during the early days of the pandemic.

A new outlook

This week's announcement will be eBay's first quarterly report under CEO Jamie Iannone, who stepped in on April 27 after serving as a top executive at Walmart's digital division. The new leader will have some good top-line news to report in his initial announcement. eBay is predicting organic sales growth of 18% at the midpoint of guidance, or 14 full percentage points above its prior forecast.

The company will update its full-year guidance this week after only noting in June that sales gains will "likely be above" the 1% to 3% range it last issued back in April. Major factors going into that revision will include traffic and conversion figures for the quarter and for the few weeks that have passed already in fiscal Q3.

Given the surging share price, investors are expecting eBay to issue a bullish prediction for 2020 growth even as physical retailers reopen and e-commerce demand settles back down toward more normal levels.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Demitrios Kalogeropoulos owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool recommends eBay and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $18 calls on eBay, short January 2021 $37 calls on eBay, short January 2022 $1940 calls on Amazon, and long January 2022 $1920 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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