eBay Beats Q1 Estimates, Splits Stock

Powered by sales topping $1 billion (US$), online auctioneer eBay, Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY) reported stronger-than-expected results for the first quarter Tuesday and announced a 2-for-1 stock split.

eBay shares jumped in early trading Wednesday, rising 7 11/16 to 161 1/4. Over the past year, the stock has traded as high as 255 and as low as 70 17/64.

The online auctioneer said revenue doubled in the quarter, reaching $85.8 million, as $1.15 billion in goods changed hands over the system. Net income rose to $6.3 million, or 5 cents per fully diluted share, from $3.8 million, or 3 cents, in the year-earlier quarter.

Analysts were expecting the company to earn 3 cents a share in the latest quarter, on revenue of about $80 million, according to research firm First Call. The results were reported after the close of trading Tuesday.

‘Firing on All Cylinders’

“The company is firing on all cylinders,” said eBay Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman. Online revenue surged to $77.3 million in the quarter from $34.0 million in the 1999 first quarter.

The number of registered users totaled 12.6 million at the end of the quarter, as a record 2.6 million people joined. A year earlier, eBay had 3.8 million users.

Though online sales were robust, revenue from the company’s offline auction subsidiaries, Butterfield & Butterfield and Kruse International, fell below year-earlier levels.

Good Quarter for E-Commerce

eBay — one of the few profitable Internet firms — joins other high-profile e-commerce companies in reporting better-than-forecast results, helping the sector bounce back from its recent plunge.

Earlier this week, Priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN) reported first-quarter results that topped both analysts’ expectations and year-earlier figures, after the name-your-own-price company added a record number of new customers.

Analysts are expecting e-tail powerhouse Amazon.com to report a loss of 35 cents a share, according to Zacks Investment Research.

New Ventures

eBay is banking on a number of ventures announced during the quarter to drive future successes. The company launched a used car marketplace with AutoTrader.com to capture a larger share of the lucrative market for autos, and formed Billpoint, an alliance with Wells Fargo & Co. that allows buyers to pay for their eBay purchases with credit cards.

eBay also launched a site in Germany, as well as a B2B exchange for small businesses.

The company said it spent more money during the latest quarter, as it invested in staff, customer support and infrastructure equipment. Personnel costs were the biggest expense, eBay said, though sales and marketing expenses also rose.

The stock split is payable May 24th to shareholders of record May 9th.

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