eBay stands by strong outlook, sees opportunities

SAN JOSE, Calif. (Reuters) - Internet auction and trading site eBay Inc(EBAY.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (Reuters) - Internet auction and trading site eBay Inc(EBAY.O) on Wednesday stood by strong growth projections, saying new opportunities at home and abroad should propel revenues close to $1 billion this year.

Chief Executive Meg Whitman told shareholders eBay was on track to report full year revenues of just under $1 billion and operating earnings per share, excluding unusual items, of between 73 and 75 cents. Analysts have said they expect the company to do slightly better.

EBay, one of the few profitable consumer Web sites, has consistently grown its sales and earnings and shown little if any recession-related slowdown.

At a shareholder meeting on Wednesday, Whitman stressed the company's successful transformation from its beginning as a site that specialized in low-priced toys and collectible items. "There isn't much you can't find on eBay" anymore, she said, noting that cars had become its single biggest category.

Other big categories now include computers, consumer electronics and the books, music and video segment. While these as well as many other eBay markets selling apparel, antiques or office equipment continue to grow, Whitman said, many still hold just 0.5 percent of the worldwide market.

"So if we were able to grow that to just 2.5 or three percent, we can be very big and very successful," she said. "How much growth is left? A lot."

While the estimates Whitman provided were consistent with earlier guidance, they were slightly below average analyst estimates, which call for operating earnings per share of 76 cents on revenues of $1.11 billion.

"We believe management is offering a conservative outlook," explained Derek Brown, an analyst with W.R. Hambrecht, who said he was forecasting revenues of $1.1 billion and operating earnings per share of 78 cents.

During the shareholder meeting, Whitman also stressed that the company was aggressively expanding into fixed-priced selling as an alternative to auctions and was continuously upgrading security features to keep the site a safe place to buy and sell merchandise.