You've probably heard this one before.

eBay's (NASDAQ:EBAY) quarterly report wasn't all that different from the numbers that the dot-com conglomerate spat out three months ago. Its PayPal and Skype subsidiaries posted double-digit revenue growth. Its flagship marketplace business delivered a double-digit decline.

In both periods, the end result of two well-performing businesses tugging at a larger albatross of a business is a single-digit decline in the top line. However, if we whip out the lead stencils for a little tracing experiment, you'll catch on to a little sequential improvement.

Year-Over-Year Revenue Growth:


Q1 2009

Q2 2009










Net Revenue



Growth at Skype accelerated. The deterioration in eBay's marketplace arm lessened. The downer is that the relative improvement didn't pan out on the bottom line. Non-GAAP earnings on a per-share basis slipped by 7% three months ago. Adjusted earnings took a 14% tumble this time around. Mr. Market's upbeat takeaway, though, is that analysts expected less out of eBay back in April and here in July.

This doesn't mean that eBay is back. It clearly still has a way to go. If you think that a 14% year-over-year decline in eBay's bread-and-butter marketplaces is bad, consider how bad things must be at itself. Several sites lumped into the marketplace category -- StubHub, the Kijiji free online classifieds site, and fixed-price listings on eBay -- grew faster than the e-commerce market did during the quarter.

It also helps that 57% of eBay's marketplace revenue came from outside the United States. Foreign specialists such as Latin America's Mercado Libre (NASDAQ:MELI) and eBay's recently acquired Gmarket in South Korea are having no problem growing their platforms. China's leading search engine, (NASDAQ:BIDU), also entered the consumer-to-consumer niche last year.

Does eBay still have problems with disgruntled power sellers who have set up shop elsewhere? You bet. The company ticked them off just as paid-search specialists including Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) made it too easy to drum up leads, and smaller sites popped up with friendlier terms.

eBay's response has been to make up those losses elsewhere. It's rolling out a buyer loyalty program and trying to lure in casual sellers, waiving listing fees on the first five items put on the eBay block by infrequent sellers in any 30 days.

The company has a long way to go before we can begin calling this a turnaround. You actually have to bottom out first. However, it's comforting to see that analysts have overshot on the pessimism lately. All the same, I'm staying far away from the "buy it now" button until the improvement arrives.

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