As stock rises on a slim earnings beat, eBay tells analysts to focus on payments and ads

Despite increasing competition from traditional retailers like Walmart and Target, which have invested heavily in e-commerce, and the whupping it’s routinely taking from Amazon among pure e-commerce companies, eBay, the 20-year-old lumbering Pez dispenser of an e-tailer, keeps plugging along.

Now, as it manages to eke out another earnings win by matching analysts’ expectations, the company is telling the bankers that watch it to look to advertising and payments for its future growth.

The company met analysts’ estimates of revenue totaling $2.65 billion, up from $2.41 billion in the year-ago period. That amounts to adjusted earnings of 56 cents per share, up from 48 cents per share in the year-ago period and beating analyst estimates of 54 cents per share. Profits for the company hit $720 million for the quarter.

The news sent shares up more than 4 percent in trading after the market closed on Tuesday.

But more interesting than the the tepid results was its outlook for the future. Right now, eBay is at a crossroads as it tries to get a new group of users to forget about its past as a marketplace for used goods and resellers — and as a more pure e-commerce company.

“This quarter we continued to make foundational investments to improve the long-term competitiveness of our marketplace while setting the stage for significant growth opportunities,” said CEO Devin Wenig in a statement. “We will continue to innovate the customer experience while executing our growth initiatives in Payments and Advertising to position eBay for future success.”

The fact is, eBay is growing. It saw the number of active buyers across the platform increase by 4 percent, and has 177 million global active buyers. While that number is dwarfed by Amazon’s more than 300 million global buyers (as of 2017), it’s one of the largest retailers in the U.S. The company’s StubHub business saw revenues of $291 million, up 7 percent from the year-ago period and sales of $1.2 billion. Its classified payments also grew.

As eBay looks ahead, payments and advertising are going to receive the bulk of the company’s internal investment dollars as it tries to complete the rollout of a new payment experience in the wake of its divorce from PayPal and its embrace of Adyen, Apple Pay and the technology-based financial services company, Square.

The company has already processed $38 million in payments, and through the partnership with Apple Pay has grown that payment method to 12 percent on the platform. Advertising on eBay has seen 400,000 sellers promote more than 160 million listings.

“We continue to grow the inventory on the marketplace,” eBay CFO Scott Schenkel said. “Just recently we rolled out a direct from brand and direct from authorized resellers… Brands want choice and they want to sell on a marketplace with 177 million users that doesn’t compete with them.”

The company will also continue to have an aggressive investment and mergers and acquisitions strategy, the executives said. Especially since the company found its earnings buoyed by the $1 billion it brought in from the sale of its stake in Flipkart, when it was bought by Walmart for $16 billion.

What’s somewhat interesting is that there are new companies in the retail space that are making a mint doing things that eBay once dominated. Vinted and DePop are both used-clothing e-tailers that have enviable cache and significant revenues, while LetGo and OfferUp are also raiding used goods to turn trash into treasure.

A quick trip to eBay’s homepage shows that the company has all but consigned its collectible past to the trash heap. Given the death and dissolution of so many of its peers from the first generation of internet giants, it’s worth keeping an eye on eBay if only to see how the 20-something company approaches middle age as an independent entity.

“We have a unique situation. [The] eBay brand is very well-recognized and not as well understood. We’re seeing this; that new buyers are responding really well to the changes that we made in the last few years and we need more of them and part of that is messaging our brand,” said Wenig on the earnings call with investment analysts.