* Marketplaces business sees ‘strong growth’ in Europe - eBay
* EBay third-quarter forecast weak, but sticks to full-year estimates
* Company says mobile growth driving more purchases, new customers
* EBay shares climb 5.1 percent in extended trading
By Alistair Barr
SAN FRANCISCO, July 18 (Reuters) - EBay Inc posted stronger-than-expected quarterly revenue and earnings as more consumers shopped on its online marketplaces and used its PayPal payment service, and it stuck to its full-year forecasts, having avoided a major hit from Europe’s economic woes.
EBay said on Wednesday second-quarter revenue jumped 23 percent to $3.4 billion, while profit climbed 16 percent to $730 million, or 56 cents per share. That topped Wall Street estimates.
EBay’s third-quarter revenue and profit forecasts were slightly below analyst expectations. But the e-commerce giant stuck with its full-year guidance from earlier this year.
“We are increasingly confident in our outlook for 2012,” Chief Financial Officer Bob Swan said during a conference call with analysts.
EBay shares have slipped in recent weeks on concern a weak European economy might dent buying and selling on the company’s online marketplace - and lucrative cross-border transactions in particular.
However, eBay said its Marketplaces business generated its strongest organic growth since 2006 - and highlighted strong growth in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
“The results were very good,” said Gil Luria, an analyst at Wedbush Securities. “I don’t think anybody in their wildest dreams thought Marketplaces would be growing this fast.”
Shares of eBay rose 5.1 percent to $42.53 in extended trading after the results.
EBay shares have gained more than 30 percent so far this year, outpacing those of rival Amazon.com, on optimism that growth has resumed at the Marketplaces business and on an expansion of PayPal from its online roots into physical stores.
EBay’s online marketplaces, the largest in the world, have lagged the growth of e-commerce and Amazon.com for several years. But under Chief Executive John Donahoe, eBay has invested a lot to improve the buying experience on the sites, partly by prodding sellers to provide more services such as free shipping and easier returns.
Earlier this year, Donahoe said Marketplaces had turned the corner.
On Wednesday, eBay said second-quarter gross merchandise volume, or GMV, on its U.S. marketplace was $6.24 billion, excluding vehicle sales. That was up 14 percent from a year earlier. Mark Mahaney, an analyst at Citi Research, had expected $6.04 billion.
International Marketplaces GMV rose 8 percent to $9.93 billion in the second quarter, driven by strong growth in Europe and Asia-Pacific.
“Some of the initiatives in the last couple of years have definitely helped,” said Aaron Kessler, an analyst at Raymond James. “International was fairly strong - they actually saw an acceleration in International GMV for Marketplaces.”
Wedbush’s Luria said European consumers may be turning to eBay to save money as the region’s economy weakens.
“When consumers are in a pinch they often accelerate the shift of spending online,” the analyst added. “They don’t go out shopping and stay home and look for the best deals online. eBay is a way to get a deal - the same item at a lower price.”
EBay executives said the company is seeing an increase in purchases by existing customers and growth in new users.
EBay active users totaled 104.8 million at the end of the second quarter, up 8 percent from a year earlier. The number of active registered PayPal accounts rose 13 percent to 113.2 million in the same period, the company reported.
CEO Donahoe said the company’s mobile tools and services drove much of this growth. EBay and PayPal’s mobile businesses will each handle $10 billion worth of transactions this year, more than double a year earlier, he noted.
“Three or four years ago, you could only access eBay with a desktop or laptop,” Donahoe said. “Now you can access eBay anytime with a smartphone.”
In the second quarter, about 600,000 shoppers made their first purchase on eBay with a mobile device, the CEO noted.
“Mobile is a movement that consumers want and we’ve invested heavily in that,” Donahoe said. “We want to pour kerosene on that fire to keep it going.”