I've been pretty consistent in my message to eBay
I'm gearing my advice to eBay shareholders. Instead of the marketplace malaise that investors see festering at eBay, there is actual growth taking place for foreign auction sites like MercadoLibre
Gmarket posted its gross merchandise value (GMV) metrics for the fourth quarter this morning. This isn't the South Korean marketplace operator's actual report. That is still nearly four weeks away. However, Gmarket is announcing that its GMV for the period rose by 14%.
It's a logical deceleration from Gmarket’s earlier, headier pace, given the global economic slowdown. The final-quarter tally weighs down the sum of the merchandise sold through Gmarket for all of 2008 to a still impressive 23%.
Anyone remember how eBay did this past quarter? GMV for the quarter fell by 12%.
Bargain hunters will argue that eBay has already been decimated, and they're right. The stock is trading at nearly a third of last year's high. There is also more to the eBay pie, like PayPal and Skype, both of which are actually still growing.
However, if you approached eBay as a growth-stock investor because you believe in the cottage industries that consumer-to-consumer auctions are creating, why stick with eBay? Sure, investors are paying 16 times forward earnings for Gmarket -- double the current eBay ratio -- but aren't you supposed to pay up for a leader? Isn't it why you as an investor went with eBay, even as companies like Yahoo!
If you want to make a case for eBay as a value stock, go for it. As long as you concede that fundamentals continue to deteriorate in its flagship marketplace business -- and accept that Wall Street already sees earnings falling by 16% this year for all of eBay (and worsening with every passing downgrade) -- it's all yours. However, growth-stock investors should key in on the marketplaces gaining traction, like Gmarket in South Korea, MercadoLibre in Latin America, and Baidu.com's
It was fun while it lasted, eBay.