eBay (EBAY -0.48%) is still suffering a growth hangover right now, but the worst might be over. The online platform recently announced Q2 earnings results that beat expectations and implied stabilizing sales and earnings trends on the way.
While some of eBay's metrics are still shrinking at a double-digit rate, the speed of that decline slowed in Q2. Let's take a closer look at the results and why investors should feel a bit more confident about fiscal 2022.
Negative sales trends are moderating
eBay's core marketplace business is still feeling the impact of a demand pullback compared to soaring e-commerce sales in the lockdown phases of the pandemic. The company's buyer pool shrank by 12% year over year, and sales volumes were down 18%. These results seem weak, both on their own and in comparison to those of industry peers like Etsy (ETSY 1.28%), which in late July reported a 4% uptick in its buyer pool.
But eBay's losses moderated compared to the prior quarter, allowing the business to outperform management's early-May forecast. Sales fell 6% (after currency exchange swings are accounted for), while executives had predicted losses of between 9% and 7%. "Our focus category strategy is working, and payments and advertising are driving further growth," CEO Jamie Iannone said in a press release.
Cash and profits
eBay also overperformed on the financial side of the ledger. The company's take rate, or the fee rate that it charges sellers for its services, rose to 12.4% of sales compared to 11.1% a year ago. That rate has been rising for more than a year, in part to reflect new services like payment processing and first-party advertising. Etsy's rate, by comparison, sits at 19% of sales.
Thanks to those gains, eBay's non-GAAP (adjusted) operating profit was 28.7% of sales, down compared to the prior year but significantly above management's forecast. Executives said they are "on track" to deliver on their wider 2022 targets despite volatility in Europe, supply chain and inflation challenges, and currency exchange shifts.
The outlook for investors
Management predicted another quarter of decelerating losses ahead. Organic sales in Q3 should fall by between 5% and 2%, it said, compared to this past quarter's 6% drop. The company still sees that core growth metric landing at between a 6% loss and a 3% loss for the full 2022 year.
Adjusted earnings will still land at roughly $4 per share, and cash flow is set to be ample, although lower than shareholders have seen in the last few years. eBay is still sending much of that cash back to investors through stock buybacks and a modest dividend payment.
It might be a few more quarters before the company returns to steady growth in core metrics like the buyer pool and marketplace sales volumes. But the Q2 results and Q3 forecast shows that eBay is taking big strides in that direction.
Once growth returns, the business should start setting impressive profit records thanks to its higher take-rate and the lift provided by the advertising and payments segments. In the meantime, investors can patiently collect those capital returns, which are approaching $3 billion through just the first half of 2022.