EBay Q4 profit increases 24%

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SAN FRANCISCO -- EBay Inc. reported Wednesday that fourth-quarter profit increased 24% from the same period last year, trouncing Wall Street estimates and prompting executives to raise estimates for the current quarter.

Thanks to scorching holiday sales -- particularly in eBay's traditional strongholds of the United States, United Kingdom and Germany -- the San Jose-based online auction company earned $349 million, or 25 cents per share, for the three months ended Dec. 31. It earned $279 million, or 20 cents per share in the year-ago period.

EBay shares increased $1.38, or nearly 5%, to close Wednesday at $30 on the Nasdaq Stock Market before the earnings report was released. It jumped $2.23, or more than 7.5%, in after-market trading.

Fourth-quarter revenue totaled $1.72 billion, up 29% from $1.33 billion in the year-ago period.

Excluding charges unrelated to ongoing operations, eBay earned $431 million, or 31 cents per share, up nearly 27% from the same quarter last year, when eBay earned $340 million, or 24 cents per share.

On that basis, which does not comply with generally accepted accounting principles, eBay was expected to earn $402 million, or 28 cents per share, on sales of $1.67 billion, according to analysts polled by Thomson Financial.

During the holiday quarter, more than 81 million active eBay users exchanged $14.4 billion in goods, ranging from pricey real estate and computer servers to Pez dispensers and clothing.

EBay President and Chief Executive Meg Whitman said the company raised first-quarter 2007 sales guidance to a range of $1.67 billion to $1.72 billion. Excluding special items, eBay expects earnings per share to be in the range of 28 cents to 30 cents per share.
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