EBay Inc., the world's largest Web auctioneer, agreed yesterday to buy privately held Rent.com for $415 million in one of at least three acquisitions of classified listings companies this year.
EBay said it would pay about $385 million in stock and $30 million in cash for Rent.com. The transaction, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2005, will likely decrease the company's earnings for that year, eBay said.
Launched in October 2001, Rent.com has become the most visited apartment-listing Web site in the nation, according to comScore MediaMetrix, eBay said. Rent.com, based in Santa Monica, Calif., expects revenue in 2004 to total more than $40 million.
EBay chief executive Margaret C. "Meg" Whitman is capturing a larger share of classified listings such as the acquisitions earlier this year of Marktplaats.nl of the Netherlands and Germany's Mobile.de.
"EBay is going after all of the categories of classified advertising, and I would not at all be surprised to see them move into the employment space next," said Peter M. Zollman, founder of Classified Intelligence LLC, an industry newsletter. "[EBay] certainly is having a major impact on the classified advertising business."
This year, eBay took a 25 percent stake in Craigslist in San Francisco for an undisclosed sum. It agreed to pay $290 million for Marktplaats.nl in November and in April paid $121 million for Mobile.de.
EBay shares fell 95 cents to close at $114.75 in Nasdaq trading. Before yesterday, the stock had gained 79 percent this year.
EBay had 125 million registered users at the end of the third quarter. It already offers real estate auctions and sales through its main site.