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PayPal该不该脱离eBay单飞

PayPal该不该脱离eBay单飞

Cyrus Sanati 2014年01月26日
身家亿万的投资家卡尔•伊坎希望eBay拆分它旗下的在线支付业务PayPal。也许他说的没错。PayPal绑定eBay的确成就了今天的PayPal,但脱离eBay单飞更适合PayPal今后的发展,因而也更符合股东的利益。

    身家亿万的维权投资人卡尔•伊坎近来对技术领域产生了浓厚的兴趣。本周三,他在多个电视节目上露面,反复呼吁科技巨头苹果(Apple)花上高达1,500亿美元来回购公司股票。与往常一样,他声明他愿意用实际投资行动支持自己的言论,透露自己已经购入价值5亿美元的苹果股票,使他对苹果的投资额度累计达到30亿美元,此举导致苹果股价上涨了1%。

    当日收盘后,在线拍卖零售商eBay透露,伊坎已经购入公司的大量股份,同时还要求这家公司进行彻底改变。这一次,伊坎对回购不再感兴趣,转而想“分裂这家公司”。eBay表示,伊坎提议让公司拆分旗下的在线支付部门贝宝(Paypal),并要求在eBay的董事会内占有两个席位。eBay对伊坎的两个建议都予以了回绝。

    eBay表示,伊坎已经收购了公司流通股中的0.82%。尽管这批股票的价值已达数百万美元,但与他以往提出变革建议时手上所持有的股票相比,这个比例仍然较小。不过,尽管这么小的控股率难以说服eBay在董事会内给予伊坎两个席位,eBay却不应无视伊坎对于分离贝宝的意见。

    起初,贝宝只是一个小型的支付处理服务,用于保证豆豆娃(Beanie Babies)的卖家和买家在eBay交易时的安全性。如今,它却发展为成千上万的商家和数百万会员方方面面的支付选择。许多情况下。它的优点就是方便快捷——有多少次你在网店点击贝宝的按钮,只是因为你不愿离开沙发去拿信用卡?

    贝宝早期的成功绝大部分(如果不是全部)都要归功于与eBay的关联。如果不是eBay强制会员注册贝宝,它可能无法得到构建高效安全的支付平台所需的那批关键会员。同样,如果不是贝宝提供了安全保护和各种支付手段,eBay也不会发展得这么快。由此,我们很容易理解eBay的董事会为何认为贝宝是自己业务中至关重要、与之相辅相成的一部分。

    然而,相辅相成的关系往往有消极作用。具体到eBay,它不利于股东利益。自从约翰•多纳霍于2008年3月接替梅格•惠特曼担任首席执行官以来,eBay的股价已经上涨了约75%。这个数值虽不容小视,不过比起其他电子商务网站的股价来说,上涨幅度仍显不足。亚马逊(Amazon)同期上涨约460%,而其他支付网站如Visa涨幅也达到了250%。把时间拉近些,情况也没有任何好转。去年eBay的股价持平,而亚马逊上涨了56%,Visa上涨了48%。

    估值方面,eBay也落了下风。这家公司来年的企业价值倍数(ev/ebitida,企业价值除以盈利,用于测定公司的投资回报率)是9。与此同时,其他支付服务的运营商如Visa和万事达信用卡(Mastercard)来年的企业价值倍数大概是15到17,比eBay高出约40%。电子商务网站的表现同样优于eBay,亚马逊来年的企业价值倍数约为33,而团购网站Groupon则是17。

    Carl Icahn, the billionaire activist investor, has been interested in technology lately. Wednesday, he made several TV appearances to reiterate his call for tech giant Apple (AAPL) to engage in a massive $150 billion share buyback. As usual, he demonstrated that he was willing to put his money where his mouth was, revealing that he had upped his stake in the company by $500 million to $3 billion, causing Apple's stock to jump 1%.

    Then, after the bell, eBay (EBAY) revealed that Icahn had built up a stake in the online auction retailer and was pushing for some radical changes. But in this case, though, Icahn wasn't interested in buybacks -- he was looking for a breakup. Ebay said Icahn wanted the company to spin off its online payment arm, Paypal, and had requested two seats on eBay's board. eBay rejected both of Mr. Icahn's proposals.

    eBay said that Icahn amassed an equity stake equal to 0.82% of its outstanding shares, which, while worth millions, is small compared to the stakes he usually builds in companies before he calls for changes. While such a small stake makes it difficult for eBay to be persuaded to give Icahn a couple of seats on its board, it shouldn't dismiss Icahn's views regarding a possible Paypal spin off.

    Paypal has grown from its roots as a small payment processor helping buyers and sellers of Beanie Babies feel safe to do business on eBay, to a full-on payment alternative for thousands of merchants with millions of members. Its advantage in many cases is simply speed and convenience -- how many times have you clicked the Paypal button while checking out of an e-commerce store just because you didn't want to get off the couch to grab your credit card?

    Paypal owes most, if not all, of its early success to its relationship with eBay. Paypal probably wouldn't have gained that critical mass of members needed to build an effective and safe payment platform if it weren't for eBay basically forcing its members to sign up. At the same time, eBay may not have grown as fast if it weren't for the protection and various payment features Paypal provides. Given this, it is easy to see why eBay's board considers Paypal to be a critical and symbiotic part of its business.

    But symbiotic relationships are often destructive -- in eBay's case, destructive to shareholder value. Since John Donahue took over from Meg Whitman as chief executive of eBay in March of 2008, eBay's stock has increased around 75%. That's nothing to sneeze at, but it lags gains seen in the shares of other e-commerce sites, like Amazon (AMZN), which was up roughly 460% during the same time period, as well as other payment networks, like Visa (V), which was up 250%. The story isn't any better closer in. In the past year eBay's shares have been flat while Amazon was up 56% and Visa was up 48%.

    eBay is also lagging when it comes to valuation. The company as a whole trades on a multiple of nine times next year's enterprise value divided by earnings (or ev/ebitida), which measures a company's return on investment. Meanwhile, the payment operators, like Visa and Mastercard (MA), trade roughly at 15 to 17 times next year's ev/ebitda, or around 40% higher than eBay. E-commerce sites also trump eBay's numbers with Amazon trading at around 33 times next year's ev/ebitida and Groupon (GRPN) trading at around 17 times.

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