by Dan Burrows | April 30, 2014 10:35 am
Ebay (EBAY) beat analysts’ estimates in the most recent quarter, but weak guidance and a huge tax charge to bring overseas earnings back home weighed on eBay stock.
Ebay stock, which was already in decline before eBay fended off activist investor Carl Icahn, today is crumbling for more prosaic reasons: revenue weakness and what looks like the opposite of financial engineering.
And yet for all the drama, eBay stock has been fairly rangebound in 2014, bouncing between $50 and $60 a share. Even after factoring in Wednesday’s early market action, eBay stock is down only about 6% on the year.
However, anyone holding eBay stock may have to show similar fortitude after what the company announced for the most recent quarter.
True, eBay swung to a net loss of $2.33 billion, or $1.82 a share, in the three months ended March 31. A year ago, eBay stock got a temporary lift after reporting Street-beating earnings of $677 million, or 51 cents a share.
Revenue rose 14% to $4.26 billion from $3.75 billion last year, driven by strength in the PayPal business that Carl Icahn wanted eBay to spin off. Top-line results likewise beat Street projections of $4.29 billion.
Now for the interesting part: Excluding a $3 billion tax charge, eBay earned 70 cents a share. The good news is that exceeded analysts’ average estimate by 3 cents.
The bad news is the market is punishing eBay stock for paying a giant tax bill for bringing $6 billion back to the U.S., with possibly $3 billion more to come.
Corporations typically stash mountains of cash overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Ebay wants to free up the money for potential acquisitions. But most companies in that position would just issue bonds, especially since interest rates are so low.
It’s kind of the reverse of financial engineering, where companies boost the bottom line by reducing taxes and buying back shares. Although eBay should be applauded for paying U.S. corporate taxes, the market sure doesn’t think so, and that could weigh on eBay stock for some time.
The other big blow to eBay stock came from disappointing guidance. Despite the first-quarter beat, eBay didn’t raise its full-year outlook, partly because it slashed its view for the second quarter.
Excluding items, eBay forecast Q2 earnings per share at 67 cents to 69 cents, while the Street was modeling 69 cents. Revenue is now projected at $4.33 billion to $4.43 billion for the second quarter vs. expectations of $4.39 billion.
Looking beyond the drama, eBay’s quarter was nothing to get excited about. Revenue from the marketplaces business slowed down from the fourth quarter. PayPal, with a 19% gain to $1.85 billion, is on track to become eBay’s largest business, but — like total revenue — commissions fell sequentially vs. the prior quarter.
It’s that sort of middling performance that has eBay stock rangebound in the first place. Indeed, anyone holding eBay stock over the past 52 weeks has seen plenty of ups and downs, but the end result is a slight loss.
Ebay is neither exciting nor sick. That makes eBay stock a hold until something comes along to bust the trend.
As of this writing, Dan Burrows did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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