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eBay Q4 profits soar

Skype growing fast - but not fast enough for Whitman

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eBay fired on all cylinders in the December quarter, delivering record net revenues of $1.7bn - 29 per cent higher than Q4 '05 and net income of $346m, 24 per cent up year on year.

The company reaped the benefit from higher average selling prices in its auction business and an "excellent" fourth quarter from its PayPal payment processing unit. Third party merchant services accounted for $3.9bn of the $11bn in total payment volumes handled by PayPal.

And Skype, the broadband telephony business acquired for a whopping $2.7bn in 2005, is beginning to come good. Q4 revenues climbed 164 per cent to $66m (Q4 05: $25m) and registered users at the end of the quarter were up 129 per cent to 171 million (Q4 2005: 75 million users).

But eBay CEO Meg Whitman is less than satisfied. "The monetization efforts we outlined at the time of the (Skype) acquisition are not developing as quickly as we had hoped," she said in an earnings call today. That will teach the company to overpay.

eBay's full year revenues advanced 31 per cent to $6bn, and net income was up four per cent to $1.1bn. It forecasts net revenues of $1.67bn-$1.72bn for Q1, 2007 and full-year revenues of $7.050bn -$7.3bn. eBay's board thinks times are good, clearly, authorizing up to $2bn in stock buybacks over the next couple of years. Last quarter the company bought $1bn-worth of its own stock.

Earnings statement here. ®

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