After watching dot-com bellwethers Yahoo!
The online marketplace titan continued where it left off three months ago, delivering another blowout quarter, and breathing life back into the dot-com sector. The company posted $0.33 per share in adjusted profits for its first quarter. That 39% improvement was well above the $0.30 a share that Wall Street was willing to swallow, while the 27% top-line boost also stayed comfortably ahead of the market.
Even though eBay's got a pocketful of verbs in its arsenal, including Rent.com and Shopping.com, we all know the three words that truly drive performance at the company: eBay, PayPal, and Skype.
E is for eBay
The company's marketplace revenue climbed 23%. That strength may come as a surprise to skeptics who figured that eBay's popularity was starting to dry up after one too many fee hikes. In a sense, they're right. The number of active users rose by 10%, and the actual number of listings inched up a mere 2%. For the first time ever, eBay Store listings actually dipped on a year-over-year basis.
So how do we get to that 23% boost? Well, the listings were more successful than in the past. Higher conversion rates and average selling prices propped the gross value of merchandise sold through eBay up a hearty 14%. At that point, we can begin to evaluate the revenue-pumping enhancements of higher fees, though non-eBay marketplace growth and eBay's successful conversion of sleepier store listings into more dynamic auction items also helped. Recently acquired StubHub also helped fuel gains.
Am I concerned that revenue continues to grow faster than actual marketplace usage? Yes, but my previous bellyaching may be overdone. I still believe that if eBay continues to skim more off of each transaction, it will continue to erode the site's value proposition. How can it not? However, the number of free online classified sites keeps growing. eBay even has a hand in a few of them. That hasn't slowed the company down.
P is for PayPal
eBay's financial site continues to dominate. Net revenues soared 31% higher, driven mostly by a 30% uptick in total payment volume. $11.4 billion in money was swapped through PayPal this past quarter. PayPal now watches over 143 million global accounts.
PayPal's biggest gains came from merchant services. That would present another head-scratching surprise to skeptics. After watching Google
S is for Skype
This was a critical quarter for eBay's recently acquired online voice chat platform. After promoting SkypeOut as a free domestic service last year, the meter began ticking again during the March quarter. Calls between connected Skype users remain free, of course, but it was easy to wonder whether the marketplace was willing to pay a little more than two pennies a minute for calls to conventional landlines and mobile phones.
There was some sequential weakness on that end, but the growth at Skype is still phenomenal. Net revenues shot up 123%, even though Skype revenue accounts for less than 5% of total eBay revenues.
Recent Web 2.0 tweaks have empowered the Skype community. Services like Skype Prime and SkypeFind provide monetization opportunities. Skype Prime is an information exchange, where users can pay other users for answers. (Yes, Google tried something similar with the recently shuttered Google Answers, but Skype's version allows individuals to promote their prowess and have the inquisitive seek them out directly.) In other words, it's not a retread of a flawed model. SkypeFind offers trusted members ways to promote local businesses.
G is for Guidance
A healthy start to 2007 finds eBay raising its full year targets. The company now expects to earn between $1.30 a share to $1.34 a share on an adjusted basis. The company's non-GAAP results exclude stock-based compensation and acquisition-related amortization. On that basis, analysts were only expecting $1.29 per share out of eBay this year.
Net revenues should come in between $7.2 billion and $7.45 billion. Wall Street's estimates fall at the lower end of that range.
eBay is a big company these days, with a global reach, generating half of its net revenues outside of the United States for the first time this past quarter. However, eBay still hasn't lost sight of its place as a community-driven juggernaut.
"We were the original social networking site," CEO Meg Whitman noted during last night's conference call.
The new Skype features bear that out, as well as Whitman's indication that drastic changes are off the table if they disrupt the loyal eBay community. She even used the word "fun" in describing the nascent feature that allows members to use Skype to send money through PayPal. Paying money? Fun? You go, Whitman. Then again, after trouncing Wall Street estimates for three consecutive quarters, maybe the fun is already here.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a satisfied eBay user with 171 positive feedbacks to show for it. He does own shares in Netflix. He is also a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its defiance. The Fool has a disclosure policy.