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eBay earnings top estimates

The online auction giant reports third-quarter per-share earnings that exceed analysts' expectations by one penny.

    Online auction giant eBay today reported a 97 percent increase in second-quarter revenues and per-share earnings that beat analysts' expectations by one penny.

    eBay's third-quarter profits rose to $11.6 million, or 4 cents per share, compared with $5.1 million, or 2 cents per diluted share, in the same period last year. Analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial predicted eBay would earn 3 cents per share.

    Revenue for the quarter rose to $97.4 million, a 97 percent increase from $49.5 million during the second quarter of 1999.

    The number of registered users climbed to 15.8 million, a 183 percent increase from 5.6 million registered users as of June 30, 1999. Hosted auctions jumped to 62.5 million from 29.3 million, and the total value of goods traded on the site reached $1.3 billion.

    "It was a strong quarter from virtually every aspect," said Daniel Ries, senior equity analyst with C.E. Unterberg Towbin. "Revenue numbers were ahead of forecast, gross margin was really strong, and the registered user growth was much higher than people might have thought."

    In a conference call after the earnings announcement, company executives said the company has been focused on hosting the auctions of costlier items such as automobiles and art.

    Analysts agree an increase in higher ticket items will benefit the company.

    "Autos is probably the most interesting business because it's such a large market in the U.S.," said Ries. "eBay does it so much better than the newspaper possibly can in terms of sorting ability, quickly finding what you're looking for, and integration."

    CEO Meg Whitman said the company will also focus in the upcoming quarter on integrating the newly acquired Half.com, which sells items for a fixed price rather than through an auction format.

    Whitman said despite the recent shakeout among dot-com companies, eBay will be one of the survivors.

    "eBay is positioned to thrive, not just survive this shakeout," Whitman said. "The result of this shakeout will be e-commerce that is stronger and more dynamic."

    At the close of regular trading today, eBay's shares were down 13 cents at $55. The announcement was made after the close of the stock market. In after-hours trading the company's shares climbed to about $57.

    In the past year, shares of eBay have traded as high as $127.50 and as low as $35.14.