EBay reports higher Q4 earnings

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Ebay sign reflected in eyeEBay reported that its net income grew sharply in the fourth quarter, helped by a gain from the sale of its remaining investment in Skype.

Its results beat Wall Street's expectations, thanks to strong holiday sales at its namesake website and growth at PayPal, its online payments business.

Investors sent eBay's stock higher in after-hours trading. Though the company gave a first-quarter outlook that was shy of analysts' estimates, its guidance for the full year was stronger than expected, suggesting stronger momentum later in 2012.

CEO John Donahoe called 2011 an "inflection point for shopping". He added: "For consumers and retailers we intend to make shopping more locally convenient and more globally accessible. This means enabling retailers of all sizes to reach consumers when, where and how those consumers want to shop."

EBay's long-term plan is to transform into a commerce company that melds the online and offline shopping worlds. As part of this effort, it has been expanding PayPal's reach beyond the web, to mobile devices and tablets. The company is also testing a service that will let people use their PayPal accounts to shop in brick-and-mortar stores, though the programme is still in the early stages.

The company earned 1.98 billion US dollars (£1.28 billion), or $1.51 per share, in the October-December quarter, up from 559 million dollars (£362 million), or 42 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. Excluding special items such as the Skype gain, eBay says it earned 60 cents per share in the latest quarter, above the 57 cents that analysts were expecting.

Revenue grew 35% to 3.38 billion dollars (£2.19 billion) from 2.5 billion dollars (£1.62 billion). On average, analysts polled by FactSet expected revenue of 3.32 billion dollars.

The e-commerce and online payments company said its PayPal business continued to grow, ending the quarter with more than 106 million active accounts, up 13% from a year earlier. Revenue jumped 28% to 1.24 billion dollars (£800 million) and the business processed 33.4 billion dollars' worth (£21.6 billion) of payments during the quarter, up 24% from a year earlier.

As more people used their smartphones and tablets to buy things online, payments made through mobile devices accounted for four billion dollars' worth (£2.59 billion) of the total payments processed through PayPal - a more than fivefold increase from the prior year. The company's marketplaces business, which includes eBay.com and other e-commerce sites and businesses, saw its revenue grow 16% to 1.77 billion dollars (£1.14 billion).

EBay's outlook for the current quarter fell shy of expectations. The company expects adjusted first-quarter earnings of 50 cents to 51 cents per share on revenue of 3.05 billion dollars (£1.97 billion) to 3.15 billion dollars (£2.04 billion). Analysts are predicting earnings of 54 cents per share on revenue of 3.16 billion dollars.
© 2012 Press Association

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