EBay officially acknowledged rumors this week that it is in talks with Interpark to acquire its roughly 37% stake in Korean auction competitor Gmarket. Gmarket shares rallied 15% on the news. Should this transaction go through, we believe eBay would quickly hit the ‘buy it now’ button for Gmarket to establish control of the Korean auction market.
Amid a slowing U.S. auction business, eBay has been relying on its international operations for growth. For its recent second quarter ended June 30, eBay’s international revenue accounted for about 54% of total revenue. International revenue grew close to 30% year over year, while US revenue was up just 12%. Most of the international success, however, stemmed from eBay’s European operations, with German and UK operations accounting for more than half of international revenue.
Interpark announced that it was shopping its shares earlier this year, putting a $1.4bn price tag on Gmarket. This is a 15% premium over Gmarket’s current market cap of $1.23bn, and means eBay would have to shell out slightly more than $500m for the shares. That works out to 5.5x Gmarket’s trailing twelve-month (TTM) revenue of $254.34m and 31.4x TTM EBITDA of $44.56m. That’s a premium compared to eBay’s own valuation of 4x TTM revenue and 24x TTM EBITDA.
By acquiring Gmarket, eBay would get a company that understands the local market. Its failure to adapt to economic and cultural realities burned eBay with its first attempt to crack the Korean market. Former CEO Meg Whitman simply applied a template that had worked in the West and put the operation on cruise control. It seems that new CEO John Donahoe has learned from that mistake. Rather than continue the failed strategy of going it alone, we expect Donahoe to try to succeed in Asia through joint ventures and acquisitions of local competitors. Given the huge potential upside for further international growth by capturing that elusive Asian market share, this deal is likely the first of many.
Significant eBay acquisitions, 2005 – present
Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase