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The World According to EBay's CEO

EBay's Global Efforts
The German headquarters of American online auction dealer Ebay in Kleinmachnow, Germany on August 1, 2013. Photographer: Ralf Hirschberger/AFP via Getty Images

While there are no feminist mothers or assassination attempts, for those of you who know John Irving's "The World According to Garp," there's still plenty of angst in EBay's turnaround tale.

During the company's earnings call , Chief Financial Officer Bob Swan used the word "angst" to describe the company's emotional response to "dramatically decelerating" growth rates in U.S. e-commerce. And while EBay described the country as in a state of "deterioration," it also pointed out that e-commerce in Korea and Europe -- which were growing slowly last quarter -- have stabilized.

As the operator of the largest online marketplace, EBay's results and outlook can provide direction on where the broader e-commerce industry is going, which is especially key ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Here's a quick snapshot of the world according to EBay, as described by CEO John Donahoe, who I interviewed after the company's earnings release. The main takeaway? Lots of uncertainty. We'll see how this chapter ends.


"We started the year thinking Europe was going to be cautious. And it was. During the second quarter it looked a little softer, and then that didn't continue into the third quarter. So it quote, unquote, stabilized. But European growth is still not high -- European economic growth, that is."


"In Korea, e-commerce growth rates just bounced around this year. I think that's a function of the change in government -- there are a variety of things going on in Korea. It's just a more volatile market. And so the growth rate was bouncing around. It got quite low in the second quarter, and it's back a little now. It's still in single digits, though. And that's a market where e-commerce has been double digits for years and years."


"With the U.S. -- this government uncertainty is not the best thing for consumer expectations. Hopefully that will get resolved, it will get resolved quickly. We'll move into the holiday season. But right now I think anyone has to characterize the U.S. situation as having a lot of uncertainty. We're not trying to call Chicken Little or anything. We're just telling it as we see it. And we're really trying to focus on what we can control."

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