Intercontinental Exchange offers to buy eBay: WSJ

(Reuters) – Intercontinental Exchange Inc, owner of the New York Stock Exchange, has made an offer to buy eBay Inc in a deal that could value the ecommerce company at more than $30 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

The German headquarters of online marketplace eBay is pictured at Europarc Dreilinden business park south of Berlin in Kleinmachnow, Germany, August 6, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

The companies aren’t currently in formal talks and there is no guarantee eBay would agree to a deal, the report here said, citing people familiar with the matter.

EBay’s shares jumped 9.2% to $37.54, while ICE stock fell nearly 4% to $96.14 following the report.

ICE is primarily interested in eBay’s marketplace business, and not its classified unit, which eBay has been considering selling, the report said.

ICE declined to comment, while eBay did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment on the WSJ report.

Earlier in the day, activist shareholder Starboard Value LP piled more pressure on eBay to sell the classifieds business, saying the company had not made enough progress to improve shareholder value.

“To achieve the optimal outcome, we believe Classifieds must be separated, and a more comprehensive and aggressive operating plan must be put in place to drive profitable growth in the core Marketplace business,” Starboard said in a letter to eBay’s board.

EBay last year agreed to sell its ticketing unit, StubHub, for $4.05 billion in cash, under pressure from Starboard and Elliott Management Corp. The activist investors had also urged the sale of Classifieds as part of a plan that could double the company’s value.

The company is expected to provide an update mid-2020 on its Classifieds business, which Elliott has valued at between $8 billion and $12 billion.

EBay, which has been shifting focus to its advertising and payments businesses amid stiff competition in its marketplace business from Inc and Walmart Inc, said it would “review Starboard’s letter and perspectives”.

Elliott did not respond to a request for comment on Starboard’s letter.

Starboard seems to be nudging eBay for a faster conclusion of its strategic review, said Robert W. Baird & Co analyst Colin Sebastian.

“Although the nuts and bolts of what Starboard is asking seem pretty consistent with what the company is already doing,” he added.

In September last year, eBay Chief Executive Officer Devin Wenig stepped down, citing differences with the board revamp carried out in March by the company following pressure from the activist investors.

Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee and Ambhini Aishwarya in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Sriraj Kalluvila

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