As Mobile Apps Boom, eBay Boosts Profit

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Improved search and payment options have made it easier for eBay ( EBAY) customers to buy and sell their goods. That's generating bigger profits and revenue for the online auction site.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect fourth-quarter revenue of $3.976 billion and earnings of 69 cents a share when eBay releases its figures Wednesday after the market close.

"We expect a strong quarter and new guidance for 2013 at or above our estimate and consensus," wrote Jordan Rohan, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus, in a note released on Wednesday. "Mobile commerce, growth in payment volume, and the 2013 growth outlook are the key factors" in the earnings report.

Rohan, who has a "buy" rating on eBay, cited mobile as the most important catalyst, saying eBay is reaping the benefits of the mobile-app boom. Stifel Nicolaus expects eBay to report fourth-quarter revenue of $4.04 billion, above the high point of the company's guidance, and earnings of 70 cents a share.

Positive sentiment is swirling around eBay, pushing the stock up more than 8% during the past three months. In October, the San Jose, Calif.-based firm met Wall Street's third-quarter estimates and raised its full-year guidance, boosted by its Marketplaces and PayPal businesses.

EBay CEO John Donahoe described mobile as a "game changer" for the company, helping drive its mobile commerce and payment offerings. Analysts say that trend will continue.

Last week, for example, Evercore Partners raised its eBay price target to $60 from $54. "Increased desktop engagement fueled by Marketplaces improvements, coupled with favorable third-party transaction and mobile checks, lead us to see estimate upside this quarter and in 2013," analyst Ken Sena wrote.

Sena pointed, in particular, to innovations such as faster checkouts, which can be completed in two clicks, and improved search. He also highlighted improvements in mobile, such as the same-day eBay Now delivery service. Evercore raised its fourth-quarter Marketplaces revenue estimate by 1.6% to $1.98 billion and its overall eBay revenue estimate by 1% to $3.97 billion.

EBay underwent a major facelift in October, which aims to make the site easier to navigate and make purchases from.

Cantor Fitzgerald predicts a strong finish to a "transformational year" when eBay reports its fourth-quarter numbers. Cantor forecasts eBay revenue of $3.974 billion and earnings of 68 cents a share.

While Cantor likes eBay's story and management execution, though, it maintained its "hold" rating on the stock, citing the auction site's "near full" valuation.

TheStreet Ratings gives eBay a "buy."

EBay shares dipped 0.4% to $52.30 on Wednesday.

-- Written by James Rogers in New York.

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