April 15, 2024

EBay Posts Gains, but Results Miss Estimates

In first quarter financial results released on Wednesday, revenue swelled to $3.7 billion, up 14 percent from a year earlier. EBay said net income was $677 million, or 51 cents a share, a 19 percent increase from a year earlier.

“We had a strong first quarter, with accelerating user growth across both Marketplaces and PayPal,” said John Donahoe, eBay’s president and chief executive, in a news release. “Technology is creating a commerce revolution, and we are in the forefront with strong mobile leadership and a focus on helping retailers and brands engage consumers anytime, anywhere.”

But the results, as well as second-quarter forecasts, fell short of Wall Street’s expectations, causing the stock to fall 1.6 percent in after-hours trading. The company forecast a second-quarter profit of 61 to 63 cents a share and revenue of $3.8 billion to $3.9 billion. Analysts were looking for earnings of 66 cents a share on revenue of $3.95 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

EBay has successfully transformed itself from a site known as the virtual equivalent of a yard sale or dusty thrift shop to a sophisticated online marketplace, now competing with Amazon and other online retailers. It said that fixed-price merchandise, as opposed to its original auctioned merchandise, is now 68 percent of all goods sold. Most recently, the company has been experimenting with same-day delivery and courier services that let customers order through their mobile devices for delivery hours later. The company reported that its core retailing business, called Marketplaces, still shows strong growth, adding close to 4 million users during the period, bringing the total to 116 million, a lift of 13 percent.

Revenue from that division also grew 13 percent to $1.96 billion in the quarter. Four years ago, revenue in the unit was declining 18 percent. Some analysts say the future of the company depends largely on the continued success of its payments products, which primarily means PayPal, eBay’s mobile payments business, which continues to be a fountain of revenue. During the first quarter, the company said PayPal sales grew 18 percent, to $1.5 billion. The company also added 5 million PayPal customers during the quarter, bringing the total to 128 million.

Benjamin Schachter, a financial analyst at Macquarie Securities who follows eBay, said the company’s momentum is reflected in its stock price, which has steadily risen and closed at $56.10 on Wednesday.

“They’ve turned it around in the last couple of years,” he said. “But the question is, Can they keep that momentum going?”

That, he said, depends on how successfully eBay enables shoppers to buy and sell using their mobile devices as well as how they turn PayPal into an offline, real-world alternative to credit cards and cash.

“The idea is that when you walk into a store, instead of pulling out a Visa, you will pay with PayPal, either through your phone, saying your name or a separate, stand-alone device,” Mr. Schachter said. “The reason the stock is doing so well is because people are excited about the business possibilities.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 17, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the percent increase in eBay’s net income from a year earlier. It is 19 percent, not 20 percent. The error was repeated in the headline. The article also misstated revenue from the company’s Marketplaces division. It is 1.96 billion, not 1.54 billion.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/technology/ebays-net-income-rises-20-percent.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Japan Times Reaches Deal With Times Co.

The agreement creates a combined English-language print edition, in which each publication will comprise one section. It will be distributed Monday through Saturday, like the International Herald Tribune, which will be renamed this autumn as part of a New York Times Co. rebranding. The first issue of the combined publication will be distributed Oct. 16.

“This deal will, we believe, give us a very significant circulation boost and make Japan our largest circulation market and will benefit our entire organization,” Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, the publisher of the International Herald Tribune, said in a news release. “We are thrilled that the International New York Times will be made available to Japan Times readers later this year. As the IHT we have built a reputation as the premier source of news, opinion and commentary for global citizens, and as the International New York Times we will further build on this distinctive international voice.”

Material for The Japan Times section will be produced from its office in Tokyo and its bureau in Osaka. The International New York Times section will be edited from the organization’s Hong Kong, New York, Paris and London offices, according to the news release.

Digital content will also be shared; subscribers to The Japan Times and International New York Times will have free, unlimited access to NYTimes.com using any device, including smartphones and computers, plus the full range of NYTimes apps for smartphones, tablets and computers.

The Japan Times, founded in 1897, is its home country’s largest-circulation English-language newspaper.

“We will remain a proudly independent newspaper, and will continue to offer our readers the very best in English-language journalism available in Japan,” Takeharu Tsutsumi, president of The Japan Times, said in a news release.

The IHT said Feb. 25 that it would be rebranded as a multiplatform international version of The New York Times.

The IHT had a publishing agreement with the Japanese paper Asahi Shimbun from 2001 until 2011. Under the arrangement, the IHT was published together with the English-language edition of Asiahi Shimbun.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/26/technology/26iht-japantimes26.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: Banks Reach Settlement on Mortgages

Bank of America bought Countrywide in 2008.Kevork Djansezian/Associated PressBank of America bought Countrywide in 2008.

11:38 a.m. | Updated

Bank of America agreed on Monday to pay more than $10 billion to Fannie Mae to settle claims over troubled mortgages that soured during the housing crash, mostly loans issued by the bank’s Countrywide Financial subsidiary.

Separately, federal regulators reached an $8.5 billion settlement on Monday to resolve claims of foreclosure abuses that included flawed paperwork used in foreclosures and bungled loan modifications by 10 major lenders, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citibank. About $3.3 billion of that settlement amount will go toward Americans who went through foreclosure in 2009 and 2010, while $5.2 billion will address other assistance to troubled borrowers, including loan modifications and reductions of principal balances. Eligible homeowners could get up to $125,000 in compensation.

The two agreements are not directly related, but they illustrate the extent of the banks’ role in the excesses of the credit boom, from the making of loans to the seizure of homes.

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Under the terms of the Bank of America deal, the bank will pay Fannie Mae $3.6 billion and will also spend $6.75 billion to buy back mortgages from the housing finance giant.

The settlement will resolve all of the lender’s disputes with Fannie Mae, removing a major impediment to Bank of America’s rehabilitation. The bank had settled its fight with Freddie Mac, the other government-owned mortgage giant, in 2011.

Both Fannie and Freddie, which have posted billions of dollars in losses in recent years, have argued that Countrywide misrepresented the quality of home loans that it sold to the two entities at the height of the mortgage bubble. Bank of America assumed those troubles when it bought Countrywide in 2008.

Brian Moynihan, chief of Bank of America.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesBrian Moynihan, chief of Bank of America.

Before the latest settlement announced on Monday, the Countrywide acquisition had cost Bank of America more than $40 billion in losses on real estate, legal costs and settlements, according to several people close to the bank.

By removing part of the bank’s mortgage albatross, the move is a continued retreat from home lending by Bank of America, even as rivals including JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo compete for the profitable refinance business that has boomed with interest rates persistently low.

Bank of America also agreed to sell the servicing rights on about $306 billion worth of home loans to other firms. In separate statements, Nationstar Mortgage Holdings and the Newcastle Investment Corporation announced they were buying the rights. Those servicing costs, which were roughly $3.4 billion in the third quarter, have weighed on the bank’s profits, especially as borrowers fall behind on their bills.

Brian T. Moynihan, the bank’s chief executive, said in November that he intended to sell off about two million loans the bank currently serviced.

“Together, these agreements are a significant step in resolving our remaining legacy mortgage issues, further streamlining and simplifying the company and reducing expenses over time,” Mr. Moynihan said in a statement on Monday.

Bank of America said it expected the settlement to hurt its fourth-quarter earnings by $2.5 billion because of costs tied to foreclosure reviews and litigation. The firm also expects to record a $700 million charge, an accounting move known as a debt-valuation adjustment, related to an improvement in the prices of its bonds.

The deal on Monday helps the bank move away from its troubled mortgage business. Still, the bank’s attempts to resolve other costly mortgage litigation have so far been stymied. Looking to appease investors that sued the bank for losses when mortgages packaged into securities imploded during the financial crisis, the bank agreed to pay $8.5 billion in June 2011. But the settlement, which would help mollify investors including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Pimco, has been stalled.

Further thwarting Bank of America’s retreat from the mortgage business, federal prosecutors sued the bank in October, accusing it of churning through loans so quickly that quality controls were virtually forgotten. The Justice Department sued the bank under a law that could mean Bank of America could pay well more than $1 billion to settle.

Bank of America has been embroiled with other legal woes, including accusations that it misled investors about the acquisition of Merrill Lynch. Shareholders, led by pension funds, had said the bank provided false and misleading statements about the health of the Wall Street firm, which, unknown to the public, was racking up huge losses in late 2008 amid turmoil in the markets.

The separate agreement with 10 banks on foreclosure abuses concludes weeks of feverish negotiations between the federal regulators, led by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the banks. That settlement will end a troubled foreclosure review mandated by the banking regulators.

The deal, which was hashed out over the weekend, had teetered on the brink of collapse after officials from the Federal Reserve demanded that the banks pay an addition $300 million to address their part in the 2008 financial crisis, according to several people briefed on the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Federal Reserve, though, agreed to back down on the demands in the hope that the pact could move ahead and bring more immediate relief to homeowners struggling to stay afloat in a time of persistent unemployment and a sluggish economy.

The multibillion-dollar foreclosure settlement was driven, to a large extent, by banking regulators, who decided that a review of loan files was inefficient, costly and simply not yielding relief for homeowners, these people said. The goal in scuttling the reviews, which were mandated as part of a consent order in April 2011, was to provide more immediate relief to homeowners.

The comptroller’s office and the Federal Reserve said on Monday that the settlement “provides the greatest benefit to consumers subject to unsafe and unsound mortgage servicing and foreclosure practices during the relevant period in a more timely manner than would have occurred under the review process.”

The relief will be distributed to homeowners even if they did not file a claim for their loan files to be reviewed.

Concerns about the Independent Foreclosure Review began to mount in within the comptroller’s office, according to the people familiar with the matter. The alarm, these people said, was that the reviews were taking more than 20 hours a loan file at a cost of up to $250 an hour. Since the start of the review, the banks, which are required to pay for consultants to review the files, had spent an estimated $1.5 billion.

More vexing, the banking regulators said that the reviews were not providing any relief to borrowers or turning up meaningful instances where homes of borrowers current on their payments were seized, according to these people.

Michael J. de la Merced and Ben Protess contributed reporting.

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/01/07/bank-of-america-to-pay-10-billion-in-settlement-with-fannie-mae/?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: In Citigroup Shakeup, a New Show of Power by Boards

Michael O'Neill, the chairman of Citigroup, in 2009.Shannon Stapleton/ReutersMichael O’Neill, the chairman of Citigroup, in 2009.

The departure of Vikram S. Pandit shows clearly who is in charge of Citigroup: the board of directors. For good or for bad, boards are increasingly taking charge of corporate America. The reign of the imperial chief executive is over.

No reason was given in the news release announcing that Mr. Pandit had stepped down. And while the reports of what happened behind the scenes will slowly emerge as each side spins its story, there is no doubt that this was an unexpected and abrupt resignation. He left without the words that you usually see in such announcements about “spending more time with your family” or even language about “retirement” — and just as his compensation was beginning to rise again into the tens of millions of dollars.

The new show of power by the board is a remarkable turn of events. In the years leading up to the financial crisis, boards were criticized for letting chief executives rule unchecked. Remember, Citigroup was the place where Sandford I. Weill reigned supreme for years. It led to Charles O. Prince III, who lacked the ability to run the financial conglomerate but also lacked a board that could appropriately supervise and monitor his actions let alone make a decision about the direction of the company. (Mr. Prince was the one, you may recall, who said in the years leading up to the financial crisis that “as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance.”

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Board supremacy is a general trend. In the wake of the financial crisis, the big banks have been forced to reconstitute their boards, with Citigroup and Bank of America at the top of the list. But others like Goldman Sachs have also been pushed to bring in more competent people. The new directors are much more aware of what happened in the years leading up to the financial crisis, and to take action.

Not only have boards been pushed to bring in new, more active people, political and market forces are pushing boards into a greater role in the banks themselves. The Dodd-Frank Act charges boards with an enhanced duty to monitor systemic risk at financial institutions and requires the creation of risk management committees made up of independent directors for these banks.

Corporate governance advocates, meanwhile, are pushing boards to take a more active role not only in the hiring and firing of the chief executive but in the operation of the company.

The consequence is that not only do boards have more legal responsibility to run the company, they are being exhorted to do so. Boards are listening. The change is real and amply underscored in the shakeup at Citigroup. Mr. Pandit’s resignation is remarkable because it goes beyond what had been the traditional board role, which has been to stand back and hire or fire the chief executive. Here, the board appeared to want to change the course of Citigroup’s operations against the wishes of Mr. Pandit.

The lesson of Pandit’s departure is that boards are now expanding their focus and looking to veto or change a company’s direction and operations. And that it is happening at a place like Citigroup, where for years being a director was more like being a minor royal – not much responsibility, but nice perks — is doubly remarkable.

The real question though is whether boards can run companies better than chief executives can. Boards comprise part-time members who don’t have the same interests at stake. They are also committees and thus may lack the wherewithal to properly execute. In fact, some blame the financial crisis on the failure of boards to correctly monitor financial institutions. But that is a developing story.

For now, we’re now in a new world where the boards rule and are unafraid to exert their power. Chief executives, beware.

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/10/16/in-citigroup-shake-up-a-new-show-of-power-by-boards/?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: German Retailer Douglas in $1.9 Billion Buyout Deal

A Douglas retail outlet in Frankfurt.Alex Domanski/ReutersA Douglas retail outlet in Frankfurt.

LONDON – The buyout firm Advent International offered on Monday to buy the German retailer Douglas Holding for around $1.9 billion.

Under the terms of the deal, Advent said it was partnering with the Kreke family, which founded Douglas, in a bid worth 38 euros ($49.26) a share.

The offer is 9.1 percent above the retailer’s closing price on Friday. In morning trading in Germany on Monday, shares of Douglas were up 7.8 percent, at 37.50 euros.

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Advent said it had already secured the support of the three largest shareholders, who have a combined 50.5 percent stake in Douglas. The buyout firm needs the backing of 75 percent of investors to acquire the company.

Advent said it planned to focus on growth within the retailer’s perfume and jewelry division if the acquisition was successful. The offer comes at a difficult time for European retailers, which continue to experience a reduction in consumer spending because of the Continent’s debt crisis.

“We are convinced that the public tender offer is very attractive,” Ranjan Sen, general manager of Advent International, said in a statement.

Douglas, which has annual revenue of about 3 billion euros and employs 24,000 people in 1,900 locations, said earlier this year that it was in discussions with a number of acquirers about a potential takeover.

Advent already operates a number of European retailers, including the French fashion company Gérard Darel and the German retailer Takko Fashion.

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/german-retailer-douglas-in-1-9-billion-buyout-deal/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: Do We Really Need a Tooth Fairy App?

The tooth fairy in 2009 in the play, Happiness.The New York TimesThe tooth fairy in the play “Happiness” in 2009.

Here’s one for the list of tools you can probably live without: An app for iPhones and iPads that helps compute what the tooth fairy should leave for your child.

Now, just in case there any children who are avid Bucks readers, I’m not saying that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist — just that he or she may confer with parents to determine the amount of money that is left under your pillow. The amount may vary, based on where you live, and by family (or fairy) tradition.

I am saying, however, that parents who need an app to tell them what value to place on their child’s bicuspids may need to get a life.

The app strikes me as appealing to well-meaning but possibly obsessive parents who complicate childhood by overthinking details that should just be fun.

And don’t get me started about parents who keep introducing new varieties of fairies. For instance, the “Halloween Fairy,” who takes away excess candy after the holiday — apparently to avoid cavities and/or obesity. I explained to my children that that particular fairy doesn’t visit our home, because we know when we should stop eating sweets.

News coverage of the tooth fairy app, which was created by Visa, included quotes from psychologists warning of the possible stigma that may await children who learn that their tooth fairy leaves less than their classmates’. According to an article in USA Today, Nobody wants to be the parent whose child is “the talk at recess,” because of a frugal Tooth Fairy, says Amy Moncarz, a second-grade teacher at Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School in Rockville, Md.

Actually, I’d be more upset if my child was the “talk of recess” for eating dirt or bullying a classmate, but maybe that’s just me.

In a news release, Visa announced that a survey it conducted found that the average gift per tooth was now $3, up from $2.60 last year, and that some lucky children get $5 or more per tooth. (Are they gold teeth, one wonders?) The survey results are based on 2,000 phone interviews in July and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

I didn’t download the app but tried the tool online. It tells you what children of parents similar to you, in terms of education and income, are getting. My children seem to be faring well; their tooth fairy leaves $2 per tooth, while the average where we live is $1, according to the tool. But did I really need to know that?

Maybe tooth fairies should adopt an idea proposed by the author Bruce Feiler, and give a book instead.

Let us know what you think: Are we overdoing it with a tooth fairy app?

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/06/do-we-really-need-a-tooth-fairy-app/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Chicago Sun-Times Has a New Owner

10:53 p.m. | Updated A new company called Wrapports, which has a strong focus on digital media, has agreed to buy The Chicago Sun-Times and more than 40 other media properties from Sun-Times Media Holdings, the new company said on Wednesday.

The announcement was made in a news release on Wednesday night after numerous reports that The Sun-Times would be sold.

Wrapports is led by Michael W. Ferro Jr., the chief executive of Merrick Ventures, a technology holding company in Chicago, and Timothy P. Knight, former chief of the Newsday Media Group and former Newsday publisher.

In the release, Mr. Knight said the company would be “introducing cutting-edge technologies, new content portals and other tools that will expand and drive richer and more satisfying content to readers.”

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed in the release, but a person with knowledge of the negotiations, who declined to be identified because the agreement had not yet been made final, said the sale price was approximately $20 million with no assumption of debt — a low price for a major metropolitan daily.

The Sun-Times is Chicago’s second-largest newspaper, after The Tribune, with a circulation of 389,353, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Mr. Ferro is on the board of the Chicago News Cooperative, which publishes local news on its Web site and also has a partnership with The New York Times to produce Chicago-focused news for The Times online and in its print report. The deal is not expected to change the partnership, the person said.

In March, Sun-Times Media, the parent company of The Chicago Sun-Times, appointed Jeremy L. Halbreich chairman of the company. Mr. Halbreich succeeded James C. Tyree, the company’s former chairman, who died in March.

In 2009, Mr. Tyree, the chief executive of Mesirow Financial Holdings, joined with other investors to buy the Sun-Times Media Group, which had filed for bankruptcy that same year, citing a weak forecast for advertising revenue.

In April, The Sun-Times won a Pulitzer Prize for local news reporting for articles on the violent “no snitching” culture in Chicago. The paper had not won a Pulitzer since 1989, when Jack Higgins won one for his editorial cartoons.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=60927a2d68ce9fa114d6837a7c2ebca9

EBay Earnings Rise in First Quarter

EBay reported Wednesday that net income in the first quarter rose 20 percent to $475.9 million, or 36 cents a share, from $398 million, or 30 cents, in the year-ago quarter.

The company said revenue climbed 16 percent to $2.5 billion from $2.2 billion.

The adjusted income of 47 cents a share was slightly above the expectations of Wall Street analysts. They had expected 46 cents a share and revenue of $2.48 billion, according to a survey of analysts by Thomson Reuters.

“In the first quarter, PayPal continued to drive strong growth globally, eBay sharply accelerated growth in the U.S. and we announced several acquisitions that we believe will enhance our leadership and innovation in commerce and payments,” John Donahoe, eBay’s chief executive, said in a news release. “The year is off to a strong start.”

The company, based in San Jose, Calif., said that revenue from its online marketplace during the quarter increased 12 percent to $1.55 billion. EBay is trying — with mixed results — to revamp the service by recasting it as an online outlet mall and upgrading its technology.

Meanwhile, revenue from eBay’s payments unit, of which PayPal is the major contributor, grew 23 percent to $992 million. Within a few years, analysts expect that payments will surpass the marketplace as eBay’s main source of revenue.

EBay passed a milestone in the first quarter as the number of active PayPal accounts surpassed the number of active eBay accounts. There were 97.7 million active PayPal users at the end of the quarter compared with 95.9 million eBay users.

Mr. Donahoe is pushing PayPal as a payments service for all online transactions, not just on eBay. Many major retailers now accept payments through PayPal, and provide a major source of growth. EBay also wants to have PayPal at the center of a mobile payment network for using cellphones and tablets instead of credit cards in transactions.

Meanwhile, Mr. Donahoe is taking eBay is an entirely new direction through its planned $2.4 billion acquisition of GSI Commerce. The deal, announced last month, would put eBay into the business of filling orders and managing stock for large retailers.

The acquisition, which has yet to close, puts eBay on a collision course with Amazon.com, which handles online sales for a number of major retailers.

In after-hours trading, eBay’s shares fell 2.7 percent to $33.10. They had gained 2.9 percent to $34.03 in regular trading before the earnings announcement.

In its forecast, EBay said second-quarter revenue would fall between $2.55 billion and $2.65 billion, with net income of 36 cents or 37 cents a share. Full-year revenue is expected to be $10.6 billion to $10.9 billion, with net income of $1.53 to $1.58 a share.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0d8509ec3ed4403f47e167f2d54d8f62