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Successor has big pricing changes ready

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Ten years of hawking Britney Spears' used undies and Hummel figurines proved enough for Meg Whitman. The eBay CEO today announced her departure plans, as her company dished out solid fourth quarter figures.

Whitman will give up the CEO post at the end of March but remain on the board. John Donahoe, current president of eBay Marketplaces, which includes eBay.com, shopping.com and StubHub, will take over as president and CEO. Donahoe, previously a managing director at consultancy Bain, has worked at eBay for three years. Meanwhile, current PayPal head Rajiv Dutta will replace Donahoe as chief of eBay Marketplaces, and PayPal CTO Scott Thompson will replace Dutta.

Apparently, Whitman has long said that 10 years is enough for one person's guidance at a company, leaving her with little choice than to make good on her philosophizing.

During a conference call, Whitman dished out the expected, saying she "was in awe" of what eBay's employees and customers have accomplished over the years and that "working at eBay has exceeded all of my expectations".

All in all, not a bad decade's work for someone who used to champion Mr. Potato Heads.

When Whitman started at eBay in 1998, the company did $4.7m in revenue. During its fourth quarter, eBay pulled in $2.18bn - a 27 per cent rise over the $1.72bn reported in the same period last year. EBay also impressed during Q4 with a 53 per cent rise in net income to $531m.

Donahoe spent much of a Q4 conference call with analysts talking about radical changes that eBay plans to start unveiling next week. With fewer new users joining eBay than in the past, the company wants to encourage regular users to do even more business on the site. So, eBay will dish out coupons to those users who've demonstrated that they sell goods at a decent price and ship the merchandise at speed. Top buyers will receive "rewards" as well.

Regular eBay users should see lower listing fees too, helping the company compete against sites with no listing fees at all.

In addition, eBay plans to place more emphasis on its fixed price goods. It will use a rating system to make sure that "the best priced (items) with high service levels rise to the top," Donahoe said. EBay also looks to hide "not well priced" items.

Next week, eBay will outline more about its feedback, customer support and pricing changes.

While the company's fourth quarter results impressed, its outlook for 2008 frightened some investors. eBay expects full-year revenue to come in between $8.5bn and $8.75bn. A number of analysts were looking for a revenue forecast of more than $9bn. Shares of eBay dropped more than 5 per cent in after-hours trading, at the time of writing. ®

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