PayPal president David Marcus went out of his way to assure investors that he leaves the eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY) subsidiary with a deep bench of talented employees, but the stock is down more than 2% in intra-day trading. eBay’s stock price has been falling since early March, but unlike the rest of the tech sector it has yet to flatten out, and if the company’s most important asset is seen to be at risk it may have trouble finding a floor.
Marcus leaving PayPal on top
PayPal outgrew its parent company years ago, causing co-founder Elon Musk to say that “it’s as if Target owned Visa or something.” Both Musk and hedge fund manager Carl Icahn had been pushing for a spin-off (Icahn seems to have backed off), arguing that PayPal will either be allowed to become its own company or it will wither on the vine. In that context, Marcus may have welcomed the opportunity to leave the company while it’s still on top. We know that he has been tasked with making Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for Mobile Messaging a reality, and the speculation is that Marcus is going to make it possible for people to use Mobile Messaging to make payments.
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From Marcus’s point of view, the choice between being dragged down by an online auction site or empowered by the world’s largest social network is probably not that difficult.
Goldman Sachs still bullish on eBay
Goldman Sachs analyst Heath P. Terry understands why ‘competitive headlines’ including a security breach, the impact of the new Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Panda 4.0 algorithm, new services from Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) Payments and now its president’s departure are holding back the stock, but he still rates eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY) as a Buy with a $64 price target (currently $48.5).
“With the stock at 14x 2015E P/E, $6/share in net cash, and an ongoing $5bn share repurchase program, we believe eBay represents a positive risk/reward at these levels,” he writes.
Terry takes Marcus’s assurances that the company is still in good hands at face value, but that may be precisely why investors have had the opposite reaction. Until a replacement is found, PayPal will report directly to eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY) CEO John Donahoe, who Icahn spent months attacking as ‘incompetent’ before the two eventually reached an understanding.