eBay shares soar despite 20 percent drop in third quarter earnings

By Kristen Vake

Shares of eBay soared more than 13 percent Thursday after reporting a 20 percent drop in third quarter earnings that nevertheless beat analysts’ expectations.

In its first quarter after splitting from online payments company PayPal, eBay said profit fell to $539 million, or 45 cents per diluted share, from $673 million, or 54 cents a share a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings of 43 cents a share in the quarter ended Sept. 30 beat the analysts’ consensus forecast of 40 cents.

In a conference call with analysts Wednesday, company officials said results were a “step in the right direction” after the split from PayPal in July, which was prompted by activist investor Carl Icahn.

“We still have a lot of work ahead of us in order to reposition our business and to deliver the level of performance that we aspire to achieve,” said eBay president and CEO Devin Wenig.

The global online retailer said it gained two million active buyers in the quarter, bringing the total to 159 million, something company officials said was critical for eBay to remain competitive with other online retailers.

Net revenue fell 2 percent to $2.1 billion in the quarter from $2.2 billion in the same quarter of 2014. This beat the analysts’ expectation of $2.09 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

Some analysts questioned eBay’s gross merchandise volume in the U.S., which rose just 3 percent, as well as a 7 percent decline in items sold growth.

eBay, which repurchased $599 million of its common stock, or 21.9 million shares, in the third quarter, said it had authorized an additional $2.4 billion in share repurchases.

“Despite positives from structured data efforts, international growth, and $2.4 billion in remaining share-repurchase authorization, we’d prefer a wider margin of safety, given potential competitive headwinds,” said R.J. Hottovy, chief financial analyst at Morningstar.

In mid-afternoon trading Thursday, eBay shares were up 13.5 percent at $27.47 per share.

Photo at top: Global online retailer eBay sees rise in shares despite drop in earnings (rmfphoto.net/Creative Commons)