Online auctioneer eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) has been through a lot in recent months -- new CEO, new fee structure, and the same worldwide economy crisis as the rest of us. Some see the buying opportunity of a lifetime, while others fear that the cheapness could be a grand illusion. Do we even have enough information to figure out who's right and who's wrong?

What Fools say:
Here's how eBay's Motley Fool CAPS rating stacks up against some of its peers and competitors:

 

Market Cap (billions)

Trailing P/E Ratio

CAPS Rating (5 max)

Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN)

$22.6

38.5

**

Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO)

$15.6

18.8

**

eBay

$16.9

8.7

***

MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI)

$0.57

47.0

****

Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK)

$0.22

N/A

*

Data taken from Motley Fool CAPS and Yahoo! Finance on 01/20/2009.

eBay has scheduled is fourth-quarter conference call for this afternoon.

New management and a new fee structure seem to have angered a few of our CAPS commentators. All-Star ripstruct82 can't sell items on eBay anymore due to a "good, just not perfect" rating of shipping services. "I am now banned from selling, and many others are experiencing the same problem. Get out of this stock as fast as you can." Others have chimed in with similar stories of woe.

However, BoiseKen is bullish: "still throwing off loads and loads of cash." The current bargain-basement P/E ratio creates "deep value for a growth stock."

What management does:
These figures are based on non-GAAP data to remove the one-time effects of that $1.4 billion writedown of Skype's goodwill. You'd think that people would buy and sell more stuff in cheap auctions when budgets tighten up, but it looks like the reverse is happening here.

Margins

6/2007

9/2007

12/2007

3/2008

6/2008

9/2008

Gross

78.0%

77.6%

77.0%

76.6%

75.9%

75.2%

Operating

25.3%

25.4%

26.1%

25.8%

25.7%

25.9%

Net

17.0%

16.9%

17.4%

17.2%

17.1%

17.1%

Free Cash Flow/Revenue

28.5%

28.5%

28.5%

28.9%

28.7%

28.3%

Growth (YOY)

6/2007

9/2007

12/2007

3/2008

6/2008

9/2008

Revenue

29.3%

29.3%

28.5%

27.6%

24.9%

20.4%

Earnings

25.0%

33.1%

37.5%

30.8%

25.1%

21.9%

Data from Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

One Fool says:
The proof is in the tiramisu, as always. If eBay's new policies are indeed scaring off or shutting out quality sellers, then the company's financial results will suffer dearly -- independent of whatever the macroeconomic picture is doing. On the other hand, the changes could simply remove bad sellers and end up creating happier buyers. That would mean higher sales over time, after a short but painful period of shaking out the slow and the dishonest from the seller crowd.

Gross merchandise volume in the last quarter was down 1% year over year. That's not enough data to tell "scared sellers" apart from "shakeout." Keep an eye on that particular stat over the next quarter or three to get a true read on how eBay's changes are really working out. Hey, great investing takes patience.

MercadoLibre is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. eBay is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. eBay and Amazon.com are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. Or just sign up for a free CAPS account to get in on the fun and profit.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here; he is a very infrequent eBay buyer and seller. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure is the Punxsutawney Phil of financial forecasting.