* First-quarter sales, profit top Wall Street estimates
* E-commerce company raises 2012 forecasts
* Marketplace business recovering, while PayPal grows
* Shares rise 6.9 pct to highest level since late 2007
By Alistair Barr
SAN FRANCISCO, April 18 (Reuters) - EBay Inc said quarterly sales and profit grew more than expected and raised its 2012 forecasts, citing growth in the e-commerce company’s Marketplaces and PayPal businesses.
Ebay’s stock rose 6.9 percent to $38.35 in extended trading, after hitting $38.83 - the highest level since late 2007.
The stock has gained more than 15 percent so far this year, more than double the gain of rival Amazon.com, on optimism that growth has resumed at eBay’s online Marketplaces business and an expansion of PayPal from its online roots into physical stores.
During the first quarter, eBay’s online marketplaces added a lot more active users, while transactions through mobile devices jumped and sales of fashion, auto parts and accessories were strong, the company said.
PayPal grew strongly as more merchants added the payment option to their websites, particularly their mobile sites, eBay said on Wednesday.
“Both PayPal and the Marketplaces were very healthy in the quarter,” said Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. “It’s not every quarter that you see both doing well.”
That suggests management’s strategy of turning around its online Marketplaces while expanding PayPal is working.
“Marketplaces is improving and PayPal continues to gain market share and that’s without any contribution from the offline initiatives,” Sebastian said.
EBay’s online marketplaces, the largest in the world, have lagged the growth of e-commerce and Amazon.com for several years.
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.
Donahoe said these changes have paid off, declaring on a conference call with analysts on Wednesday that the Marketplaces business “has turned the corner.”
EBay said first-quarter gross merchandise volume on its U.S. Marketplace business was $6.37 billion, excluding vehicle sales. That was up 13 percent from a year earlier. Doug Anmuth, an analyst at J.P. Morgan, had expected $6.13 billion.
EBay’s online marketplace added 2 million active users during the first quarter, the most in three years, Donahoe noted.
PayPal’s Total Payment Volume was $34 billion in the first quarter, up 24 percent from a year earlier. J.P. Morgan’s Anmuth had forecast $33.28 billion.
PayPal’s transaction margin - a measure of the payment service’s profitability - was 65.6 percent in the first quarter, up from 64.8 percent in the previous quarter.
Chief Financial Officer Bob Swan said this was the highest margin level in five years.
EBay said first-quarter profit was $725 million, or 55 cents per share, compared with $619 million, or 47 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue was $3.3 billion, up 29 percent from the same period in 2011.
EBay was expected to report earnings of 52 cents per share in the first quarter on revenue of $3.15 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
EBay forecast second-quarter profit of 53 to 55 cents per share on revenue of $3.25 billion to $3.35 billion. For full-year 2012, the company expects earnings of $2.30 to $2.35 per share on revenue of $13.8 billion to $14.1 billion.
Wall Street was looking for earnings per share of 55 cents for the second quarter and $2.30 for the full year. Revenue was expected to be $3.36 billion in the second quarter and $13.85 billion for the full year.
Earlier this year, eBay forecast first-quarter earnings of 50 to 51 cents a share and revenue of $3.05 billion to $3.15 billion. For the whole of 2012, had eBay previously forecast profit of $2.25 to $2.30 per share on revenue of $13.7 billion to $14 billion.
“They are doing a fantastic job for long-term shareholders,” said Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management, which owns eBay stock. “They consistently under-promise and over-deliver.”
EBay likely kept its full-year estimates restrained because the outlook for the economy is still uncertain, Sebastian noted.