There is speculation among financial analysts who watch the internet and ecommerce world that one possible development in 2019 should be eBay Inc. selling up some of its interests to make some acquisitions and possibly buy a company like Etsy.
One, Aegis Capital analyst Victor Anthony, expects activist investors to push eBay for the sale of the US company’s classifieds and StubHub divisions with the aim that it could use the cash for repurchases and a “transformative” acquisition. And one target for purchase for eBay touted is the crafts and vintage marketplace Etsy.
This new trend towards what they call ‘activist investors’ doesn’t always seem particularly clever unless you have stock. The consumer, and in marketplace terms that can mean merchants and customers, are never the primary concern. Increasing shareholder value, and that’s normal, is the principle desired outcome. We all understand that.
Stubhub is a key source of income for eBay Inc. and is a crucial profit centre for the company and that is an arrangement that seems to work. Spinning off PayPal had similar arguments in its favour, of course, and that probably was the right decision. But it brings with it uncertainty.
It seems likely that many Etsy merchants won’t be enthusiastic about the prospect of an eBay takeover. Indeed, it’s not entirely clear if such a deal would be straightforward or, even, possible at all. And what would eBay have to teach Etsy? Whilst both companies may be interesting marketplaces, they aren’t particularly similar.
Etsy continues to go through a process of reinvention and modernisation that started nearly two years ago when the new CEO Josh Silverman, previously of eBay, took the helm after a year of dubious performance following the IPO a year previously. And this project has been broadly welcomed by Wall St. because it has been a successful project. It also doesn’t seem likely that Etsy would want to give up its independence easily either.