Tech Industry

eBay posts big jump in fourth-quarter sales

Though many of its dot-com peers have languished, the online auctioneer continues to post profits quarter after quarter. One analyst's take: "It's a pretty decent performance."

Online auction giant eBay said Tuesday that its fourth-quarter revenue jumped 64 percent, as its earnings surpassed Wall Street expectations.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company posted net income of $25.9 million, or 9 cents per diluted share, on revenue of $219.4 million. For the same period in 2000, eBay earned $23.9 million, or 9 cents a share, on $134 million in revenue.

Excluding charges, such as stock-based compensation and employer payroll taxes, eBay posted a pro forma profit of $38.5 million, or 14 cents per diluted share. Wall Street analysts expected the company to earn 12 cents per share on that basis, according to a survey by First Call.

"It's a pretty decent performance," said Jeetil Patel, a financial analyst who covers eBay for Deutsche Bank Alex Brown. "It seems like eBay has outperformed on all measures."

eBay's strong earnings statement comes despite the economic downturn and the prevailing trend among its dot-com peers. While hundreds of other dot-com businesses have closed shop or posted declining revenue, eBay has continued to post profits quarter after quarter.

For the year, eBay posted a net income of $90.4 million, or 32 cents per diluted share, on $748.8 million in revenue. In 2000, eBay earned $48.3 million, or 17 cents per diluted share, on $431.4 million in revenue. The company has set a goal for itself of reaching $3 billion in revenue on about $30 billion in sales through its site by 2005.

One of the bright spots for eBay in the fourth quarter was the performance of its international business, which posted an operating profit for the first time, the company said. Although the company has struggled with its Japan site, overall revenue from sites in countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia accounted for 18 percent of eBay's revenue in the quarter, up from 16 percent in the third quarter. Meanwhile, The company's Germany site posted a 51 percent growth in revenue from the third to the fourth quarters.

eBay has reportedly been considering buying or teaming up with a competitor in the Japanese market, where its eBay Japan site trails far behind Yahoo's Japanese auction site.

eBay's U.S. business grew at a slower, but still respectable, pace than its international business, increasing revenue 11 percent over the third quarter. Part of the increase came from advertising, which accounted for 13 percent of eBay's revenue in the fourth quarter. The company has said that over time it expects that figure to decline to about 11 percent.

The amount of goods sold through eBay during the fourth quarter increased to $2.7 billion, up from $2.4 billion in the previous quarter and up from $1.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2000.

One area of continued trouble for eBay is in its offline operations, including its Butterfields auction house and Kruse International, which sponsors classic car auctions. During the fourth quarter, eBay's offline businesses garnered just $7.8 million in revenue. That's down from $9 million in the third quarter and $10.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2000.

eBay shares closed up 87 cents at $64.03 in regular trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market. In after hours trading on the Island ECN, eBay shares fell $3.24 at $60.79.