By Aaron Pressman
February 1, 2018

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The future of PayPal was never about eBay, but when the popular payment service’s former parent ripped off the band aid on Wednesday, it sure hurt. Good morning, Aaron in for Adam on this Thursday morning of suffering PayPal stockholders.

The announcement, under the innocuous sounding headline “eBay to Intermediate Payments on its Marketplace Platform,” overshadowed the holiday quarter earnings reports from both companies. The auction site said Dutch payments processor Adyen would become its primary provider behind the scenes, replacing PayPal. PayPal will remain as an option for customers to pay, alongside a growing line up of alternatives, at least until July, 2023, eBay said. The end result should be more profits for eBay (“we can capture significantly better economics,” as CEO Devin Wenig put it) and its shares jumped 11% in premarket trading on Thursday.

But alongside an earnings report with a somewhat disappointing 2018 forecast, the decision sent shares of PayPal down 6% (though that still leaves the stock price at about double where it stood a year ago).

For eBay users, the decision is a clear win. Sellers will see higher proceeds from sales as transaction fees drop. And buyers will have a wider choice of options on the new, more open eBay payments platform (bitcoin, anyone?). The company is still somewhat restricted in what it can offer in the financial realm under its original agreement with PayPal but that deal expires in June, 2020.

At PayPal, obviously it hurts to see a once dependable stream of revenue disappear. But eBay has been a decreasing part of the business since the company split off almost three years ago—transactions from the site represent only about 13% of PayPal’s total volume, down from about 21% at the time of the spinoff. That will drop to 4% over the next few years, CEO Dan Schulman noted on call with analysts, saying eBay’s decision was long anticipated at PayPal. Customers choosing to pay with PayPal, the part of the eBay business that remains, is far more profitable than the backend processing volume that is moving to Adyen, he argued.

How much the move hurts PayPal over the long term is up for debate. Adyen becomes a more serious competitor for processing business as it gains scale. And eBay could have renewed the original five year agreement instead of letting it expire in 2020, as it now plans. But PayPal owns fast-growing payments app Venmo and has been cutting deals to provide payments services to more retailers so it still has plenty of other growth opportunities. They’re just not top of mind for investors today.

Aaron Pressman


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