Investors are starting to buy into eBay's (NASDAQ:EBAY) value creation strategy, and the stock has risen 8.7% since it released its fourth quarter earnings report in January.
Although its Marketplaces unit is still reeling from a sharp drop-off in active customers due to a data breach last year that required widespread password resets, management will be able to focus more of its attention on the struggling unit after the PayPal spinoff later this year. Let's walk through eBay's latest earnings call to see what investors should know about the company going forward.
PayPal delivering strong results
Despite the burgeoning supply of new online payment services, PayPal continues to grow revenue by double digits and add an impressive number of new users. The payment service's revenue increased 18% on a currency-neutral basis during the fourth quarter and added nearly 5 million active accounts -- bringing its total to 162 million active accounts. EBay CEO John Donahoe remarked:
At PayPal, Dan Schulman joined in Q4 as President and CEO Designee, and we're excited to have him on our leadership team. Dan is quickly immersing himself in all aspects of PayPal's business and providing strong, focused leadership on 2015 priorities and on positioning PayPal for continued competitive success. PayPal had another strong quarter, finishing a very strong year. Merchant Services TPV grew 36% on an FX-neutral basis in Q4 and revenue was up 18% on an FX-neutral basis.
Marketplaces continues to struggle
EBay Marketplaces suffered a major data breach in May 2014 that led to a sharp drop-off in traffic; although the website's most loyal customers are still active, the company has had difficulty luring back casual users. Donahoe says it will take more time to correct the issue:
Turning to eBay Marketplaces. Q4 was disappointing. Significant events in 2014 have disrupted our ecosystem and overwhelmed the progress we were making on a number of fronts, impacting our performance. We have experienced these ecosystem disruptions before, and they simply take time to work through and correct.
Spin-offs and layoffs
With Marketplaces struggling to grow, it's no surprise that the company is making changes to streamline its business. Management is exploring the sale or initial public offering of Enterprise so that management can refocus its efforts on Marketplaces. Also, the company intends to lay off 2,400 employees across all of its business units -- roughly 7% of eBay's global headcount. CFO Robert Swan talked about the expected benefits from the layoffs:
We are reducing our global workforce by roughly 7%. This will result in a GAAP charge of approximately $100 million in the first quarter and generate savings in 2015 of more than $300 million across the company. But the savings will be reinvested to drive growth.
Mobile commerce exploding
EBay's mobile commerce volume in 2014 increased 66% to $54 billion. Mobile payments now account for nearly one-fourth of all payments across all of eBay's business units. The mobile payments arena is becoming increasingly competitive, with a number of start-ups and major tech companies launching their own systems. Donahoe emphasized the importance of remaining innovative in the space:
Mobile continues to be a major source of innovation. PayPal's got its new Mobile SDK. And if I turn to the Marketplace in the midst of what was a very challenging year, to be clear, we got that. But mobile GMV was up 42% for the year. Mobile GMV and eBay's mobile GMV was $28 billion. And you saw the iPad app that we launched right before Christmas. That is the freshest, I think, most innovative mobile experience that eBay has built in years.
Marketplace is a long-term project
After the PayPal spin-off and the Enterprise sale or IPO, Marketplaces will be eBay's core business. However, management believes the unit still has a long road to recovery; while PayPal is expected to produce robust sales growth and margin expansion, eBay's results will be tempered by its ongoing challenges. Donahoe warns:
2015 will be another challenging year, and we expect eBay's performance to soften further before we see stabilization and improvement...We are projecting 2015 revenues of $18.6 billion to $19.1 billion, representing FX-neutral growth of 7% to 10%.