eBay blows past 1Q forecasts, sets stock split

eBay rolled past Wall Street estimates in its first quarter

eBay rolled past Street estimates in its first quarter Tuesday, raking in $8m (£5.07m), or 6 cents a share, on sales of $85.8m. It also set a 2-for-1 stock split.

First Call consensus predicted the online auctioneer would earn 3 cents a share in the quarter.

Ahead of the earnings report, eBay shares closed up 11 11/16, or 8 cents a share, to 153 9/16.

The $85.8m in sales marks a 100 percent jump from the year-ago quarter when it made $4.8m, or 4 cents a share, on sales of $42.8m.

A survey of analysts by First Call predicted first-quarter sales of about $80m.

"In the first quarter of 2000, eBay achieved unprecedented financial and operational success," said CEO Meg Whitman in a prepared release. "The company is firing on all cylinders as it expands to become a truly global trading platform."

Including consolidated net income excluding the effects of certain non-cash and stock-related, eBay earned $6.3m, or 5 cents a share, in the quarter.

In the quarter, eBay posted online sales of $77.3m, up 127 percent from the $34m it recorded in the year-ago quarter. It sold more than $1.15bn in merchandise in the quarter, up 113 percent from the same time last year.

Its registered user base jumped to 12.6m in the quarter, up 230 percent from the 3.8 million users it serviced in the year-ago quarter. In addition, it hosted more than 53.6m online auctions, a 133 percent improvement from the 22.9m auctions it hosted this time last year.

Ahead of the earnings report, Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget said that while eBay's "operating profit is still modest," the company's "high gross margin as a market maker, and low customer acquisition cost as a grass roots phenomenon" make it one of the only profitable consumer e-commerce companies.

Blodget predicted an upside surprise of 1 to 2 cents a share in the quarter.

Company officials said the 2-for-1 stock split will take effect May 24 for all shareholders of record on May 9.

Last quarter, eBay raked in $4.9m, or 4 cents a share, on sales of $73.9m. eBay shares moved up to a 52-week high of 255 in March after falling to a low of 70 1/4 in August.

Twenty-two of the 27 analysts following the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation. Analysts are expecting it to return a profit of 36 cents a share in the fiscal year.

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