Online auction site eBay Inc.
Tuesday reported sharp growth in its fourth quarter sales and
profits and set a 3-for-1 split of its high- flying stock.
The company reported a "supplemental" net income,
excluding various expenses, of $2.8 million, or seven cents per
diluted share, compared with $214,000, or one cent per share, in
the year-ago period. Revenues rose to $19.5 million from $2.6
million the year before.
eBay shares, which had closed regular trading up $3.38 to
$20.88, surged to as high as $236 in aftermarket activity
following the release of earnings. The stock has traded as high
as $321 since the company went public at $18 a share four months
eBay said the sharply higher results mainly reflected
increased activity on its site. During the fourth quarter, it
said it hosted 13.6 million auctions of everything from guns to
Beanie Babies, up from 9.2 million auctions in the third
quarter. The number of eBay registered users topped 2.1 million
at the end of December, up from 1.2 million just three months
Because the company brings buyers and sellers together but
does not actually handle merchandise, its overhead is relatively
low and a large portion of its sales gains translate directly
into higher profits.
Still, eBay said its expenses did rise sharply during the
quarter due to increased spending on customer support personnel,
depreciation of equipment and other transactional expenses like
bank processing charges for customer fees paid by credit cards.
eBay's expenses for sales and marketing, product development
and general and administrative purposes rose to $14.4 million
from $2.0 million in the year-ago quarter. The company has
recently invested in features that will prevent fraud on its
Despite the higher spending, the results were well received
on Wall Street, where analysts focused mainly on the "top
line" or revenue growth, and said the expenditures made now
would help fuel growth over time.
"It was a great quarter," said Goldman Sachs analyst
Rakesh Sood. He said while expenses were somewhat higher than he
expected, sales also surpassed expectations. "Given the strong
surge in revenues, expenses were reasonable," he said.
eBay's net income, including all extraordinary expenses,
totaled $1.5 million, or four cents a share, compared with
$189,000 or one cent last year.