On Wednesday eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) released its 2nd quarter results, beating analyst estimates for revenue and EPS. The market’s initial knee jerk reaction was to rally the stock price by 7%. However, by the end of the day, it had reversed all of those gains and closed in the middle of its tight 3-week trading range.

The lack of direction ahead of the earnings release showed how indifferent the market has become to the stock. On Friday it continued to trade in the middle of that range, indicating that there is little to be excited about, but not enough reason to sell either.


Sluggish Revenue Growth

Gross merchandise volumes fell 4%, so while eBay earned more revenue, the platform is clearly shrinking.

eBay may have beaten analyst estimates, but sales were still sluggish. Revenue of $2.68 billion was just 1.5% higher than a year ago. Gross merchandise volumes fell 4%, so while eBay earned more revenue, the platform is clearly shrinking. It appears that slowly but surely sellers are moving to Amazon where there are more buyers.

Earnings were substantially higher and twelve-month trailing earnings have risen steadily since eBay reported a loss at the end of 2017. This has at least partly been due to ongoing share buybacks.

eBay’s ticket exchange platform StubHub saw volume growth of 6%. However, management also confirmed that it is moving forward with plans to sell that platform.

The company raised its full-year EPS forecast for the second consecutive quarter.


eBay’s Prospects Are a Mixed Bag

eBay was once a tech sector market darling but lately there has been little to get excited about. The company has experimented with several new initiatives – including moving its ad business inhouse – but has yet to gain real traction with anything new. With no growth engine, the company has limped along with annual earnings growth of around 8% for the last decade.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. eBay is still the leader when it comes to auction sites. Smaller rivals like Etsy may be winning in specific markets, but for general merchandise, eBay is still the go-to platform.

With a forward PE of 12, the share is fairly cheap and does give investors an option of hitting a home run on one of its many experiments. The company is also quite profitable and has decent margins and a solid ROE.

In January activist investment firm Elliott Management took a 4% stake in the company and has been engaging with management. This may provide an underpin as investors wait for Elliot to push for changes at the company. Elliot believes the company is inefficient and its value can be improved by improving the way it operates.

All of this makes eBay more of a value play than a growth stock. That’s not what most investors look for in the tech sector, but it may offer a decent return compared to the S&P 500. With little growth priced in, it could also be viewed as defensive within the sector.

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