Shares of online auction giant eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) were up 7-1/4 to 144-9/16 in early trading today, one day after the company announced impressive fourth quarter earnings. After the markets closed on Tuesday, eBay reported fourth quarter net income of $4.9 million, or four cents per share — two cents better than the estimate of analysts surveyed by First Call. eBay had $73.9 million in sales in the fourth quarter of 1999, compared to the $30.9 million in the fourth quarter of 1998. The company earned $3.9 million, or three cents per share, in the fourth quarter of 1998.
Registered users increased to 10 million by the end of 1999, an increase of 359 percent from the 2.2 million at the end of 1998. Meanwhile, eBay’s fourth quarter gross merchandise sales rose to $901 million, an increase of 192 percent from the $307 million reported for the fourth quarter of 1998. The number of auctions that eBay hosted more than tripled year-over-year, with eBay conducting 41 million auctions during the fourth quarter of 1999, compared to 13.6 million in the fourth quarter of 1998.
All in all, it was an impressive performance. Shares of eBay had pretty much been in a holding pattern prior to the earnings announcement, and the stock is still well off its 52-week high of 234. The stock is not cheap, but it certainly looks like one of the most solid business-to-consumer (B2C) companies that investors will be able to find.