One year ago, two Fools crossed swords over online auctioneer eBay
Tim Beyers held eBay's banner a mile high (easier than you think, because he did it from Denver). Rival Amazon.com
Chuck Saletta, true to form, waved red value flags around the stock because he thought stalled growth did not deserve a P/E ratio in the mid-40s. The business issues that led into this value trap were legion: eBay had given up on a solo operation in China, Google
The results are in!
Blades firmly sheathed, our combatants sat down to trade war stories over a virtual beer while readers cast their votes. Tim took the cake with 60% of the 104 votes, compared with 36% for Chuck, and about 5% undecided.
Mr. Market concurs, as the stock price has risen by 11% over the last year. It's a market-beating performance, albeit not a very impressive one. And 2,900 of our 42,000 rated CAPS players are on the same page, giving the stock a solid four-star overall rating. By my count, Tim is a threefold winner. Huzzah!
But wait! There's more!
Of course, the story doesn't end here. For all the investor love and market gains eBay has seen in the last 12 months, I personally think the best is yet to come. The company has taken lots of little steps to get away from the problems it used to face, such as overpaying for Skype and fighting on unfamiliar territory in Asia and Latin America.
Shortly after separately delivering disappointing results and a Skype-related $1.4 billion writedown in the last quarter, the stock price took a nosedive and lost most of a 30% year-to-date advance. OK, so eBay misjudged the Skype purchase badly. But what is a goodwill writedown? No cash left the building this quarter, but a large chunk of tax liability did. It's just another reason why you should be skeptical of net income as a measure of business success. Really, a smart CFO should try to keep the taxable income as low as possible, as long as it doesn't hurt cash flows. But earnings are simple to read, and P/E ratios can be a convenient crutch for analysts and investors alike. Hence, the myopic net-income madness continues.
I recently took a closer look at eBay through a conference presentation, and came up with a simple conclusion: The company won't ever be able to coast on glories of the past; it must stay innovative or die. And I think there's still plenty of innovation left in the online veteran, and lots of untapped market opportunity for an expert retailer without inventory. The market just doesn't see it yet, being blinded by valuation ratios, irrelevant earnings shortfalls, and growth hiccups. You can take that to the bank.
Or, don't take my word for it. While this Fool is not at liberty to share the Gardner brothers' latest updates on this Stock Advisor pick, you can certainly grab a free 30-day trial and go see for yourself. You're welcome.
Fools have some ideas for eBay:
Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a Google shareholder, but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Yahoo!, eBay, and Amazon.com are on the Motley Fool Stock Advisor scorecard. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure loves an occasional drag-it-out, knock-it-down cage match.