First, let me get the disclosures and disclaimers out of the way. I own shares in the following stock. It is a 'screaming buy' for me. I am not recommending it as an investment for you as most of you who are aware of from previous articles, I never make any recommendations; however, occasionally I strongly suggest that you take a closer look a certain stocks.
For example, back on March 8, 2007, when I wrote the article ‘Why Amazon.com Stock could be Up Substantially by Year End’. The article listed twelve reasons why Amazon.com (AMZN) looked extremely favorable. The stock closed at 38.10 that day, started shooting up in April and never looked back, now trading around 120 per share.
So what is the stock I am writing about? It is eBay (EBAY), which closed at 21.77 on Friday. This is the company that owns PayPal, the online payment services company. Remember several years ago when eBay took a lot of grief for buying PayPal? Now look at it; it is driving the company.
PayPal's total payment volume, also known as TPV, jumped above $20 billion for the latest reported quarter. PayPal operates in 190 markets around the world, with over 80 million active accounts, supporting 24 different currencies.
The Merchant Services division of PayPal grew by an incredible 50% for the fourth quarter. So what is Merchant Services? This is essentially the checkout process that you see when you purchase something online, whether you are buying from a small, medium, or even large companies such as Wal Mart (WMT), 1-800-Flowers (FLWS), and Blue Nile (NILE). Usually you see a choice of VISA (V) or MasterCard (MA), and often in addition, Discover (DFS) and American Express (AXP).
A major bank or other financial institution would normally process this whole checkout procedure. But PayPal is moving in on this business in a big way. With PayPal handling it, consumers can still use a credit card to check out through PayPal even if they don't have or don't want to use a PayPal account. Smaller merchants are realizing that they have been paying a lot in monthly fees to some merchant service company in addition to being subject to a minimum monthly dollar amount in transactions. Whereas with a basic PayPal plan, no monthly fees and minimums.
So for the Merchant Services business of PayPal, the company's total payment volume grew at a rate of ten times the market growth rate for ecommerce in general, with the international services growing at 80% over last year, boosting non-US volume to 40% of PayPal's total TPV.
The international business is significant, with the cross border trade amounting to about one quarter of all of PayPal's total payment volume.
Oh year, I think the company also has some kind of an online auction business. But seriously, the eBay marketplace portion of the business is holding its own. Revenues for the eBay Marketplace increased by 15% for the latest quarter, with sold items growing by 11% worldwide over last year. Gross marketplace volume grew by almost 50% over last year in the Asia Pacific region. And in Europe, the number of live listings has practically doubled.
Same store sales growth for the fourth quarter for top-rated sellers grew by over 10% in the United States, 25% in Germany, and 35% in the UK.
There is even an eBay app for the iPhone, which has been downloaded practically 7 million times, which has generated more than $600 million in GMV during 2009, a 200% increase over the prior year.
I look at the eBay marketplace business a practically a utility. People will always have stuff they want to sell, and people will always be looking for stuff to buy. Whether we are in a recession or a booming economy, the eBay transactions will always continue.
As for eBay's other businesses, it has completed the sale of its 70% interest in Skype for about $1.9 billion. StubHub had a 54% fourth quarter increase in ticket sales over the same quarter last year. The classifieds business increased by 20% for the year. Revenue for Shopping.com, Rent.com and other businesses was up 7% for the latest quarter.
As for the company in general, revenues grew by 16% to $24 billion for the latest quarter, with non-GAAP earnings per share increasing by 9%. The company generated almost $600 million in free cash flow. And most important of all, the company is debt free. (I just love debt free companies.)
The company has $5.2 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and non-equity investments, amounting to about $4 in cash per share. The line of credit is paid off. Did I mention that the company has no debt?
The company reported financials on January 20. If the stock market and the economy had been stronger at the time, I think eBay would have performed better over the last few weeks. So if you are looking for a company to do your homework on, take a very close look at eBay.
Author owns AMZN and EBAY.
By Fred Fuld at Stockerblog.com