January 31, 2006, 12:00 AM

eBay is still searching for the cruising altitude

EBay reported a 39% rise in listings to 1.9 billion last year, as its number of active users reached a record 71.8 million and gross merchandise sales rose 29% to $44.3 billion from $34 billion in 2004.

Since 1997, the first year it reported financial data, eBay Inc.’s gross merchandise sales-the total value of goods transacted on its Internet trading platform-has grown 466 times, to $44.3 billion in 2005 from $95 million just eight years ago.

Indeed, it shows no signs of slowing down. EBay reported a 39% rise in listings to 1.9 billion last year, as its number of active users reached a record 71.8 million and gross merchandise sales, the total value of all closed listings on eBay’s trading platforms, rose 29% to $44.3 billion from $34 billion in 2004.

“We saw accelerating growth and momentum across the board,” CEO Meg Whitman said.

Individuals operate 383,000 online stores worldwide within eBay.com, including 212,000 in the U.S. It reported that total payment volume initiated through its PayPal system (excluding its payment gateway business) last year amounted to $27.5 billion, up 45% from $18.9 billion in 2004.

Consolidated net income last year rose 39% to $1.08 billion, up from $778.22 million in 2004, and net revenue rose 39.2% to $4.55 billion from $3.27 billion.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, gross merchandise sales rose 22% to $12 billion, up from $9.8 billion a year earlier. Fixed-price trading accounted for $4 billion or 34% of Q4 gross merchandise sales, eBay said.

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