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eBay to Carl Icahn: Thanks for the Suggestion, but We're Not Spinning Off PayPal

Your move, Carl.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Carl Icahn is a busy man. On the same day that the activist investor revealed a $3 billion stake in Apple, eBay said in its fourth-quarter earnings report that he had taken a stake of nearly one percent in the company and is demanding the spinoff of eBay’s fast-growing PayPal payments unit.

The activist investor also nominated two of his employees for seats on eBay’s board of directors.

Icahn’s actions coincided with eBay’s announcement that its board had authorized a $5 billion stock repurchase program, in addition to the $600 million that still remains from a past authorization.

The company said in its filing that its board has “explored in depth a spinoff or separation of PayPal” but “has concluded that the company and its shareholders are best served by the current strategic direction of the company and does not believe that breaking up the company is the best way to maximize shareholder value.”

Or, in other words, “Thanks but no thanks, Carl. We’re doing just fine.”

In a call with analysts, CEO John Donahoe outlined why the board wants to keep the two companies together. For one, the eBay platform serves as a cheap way for PayPal to acquire new merchant customers. He also argued that eBay helps fund PayPal’s growth through investments and also provides the payment network with data on a massive amount of transactions that help inform PayPal’s risk management.

“We are seeing more and more commerce and payment competitors try to replicate the eBay-PayPal model,” he said.

eBay is responsible for more than 30 percent of PayPal’s revenue and more than 50 percent of its profits, the company said in an accompanying slide.

As for the board nominations, eBay said it would pass them on to its Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee, but essentially said it’s happy with the current makeup of its board.

Your move, Carl.

The company’s fourth-quarter earnings today were relatively in line with analyst expectations: Earnings per share of 81 cents, excluding some items, on revenue of $4.53 billion, compared to analyst estimates of 80 cents on $4.54 billion.

The stock was climbing more than eight percent in after-hours trading.

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