eBay Germany To Sell Companies Online

The German unit of eBay has reportedly decided to sell companies online after a recent machinery auction led to the sale of a small construction company.

eBay Germany has been promoting its business-to-business area since November with the launch of eBayPro.de, a section of the auction site that offers commercial goods and services ranging from printing services to delivery trucks.

Last week, however, the site began putting a few small companies on the virtual auction block and may eventually expand the operation to other countries.

A Dozen Firms Available

So far, eBayPro has about a half a dozen small firms up for sale, with an auto-repair shop with an asking price of 74,000 marks ($38,688 US$) among them. A few of the companies on the block are incorporated in the U.S. and are selling for about 3,000 marks ($1,547 US$) as simple legal entities with no working operations.

Many industry observers point out that eBay’s German business-to-business pilot program could easily be adapted stateside.

B2B Site Sells It All

In less than two months, eBayPro has become a platform for a myriad of commercial transactions, including futures contracts on commodity items such as T-shirts imported from Asia.

However, eBayPro is staying clear of real estate auctions at the moment, because of Germany’s requirement for special licenses to participate in property sales.

eBay got its foot in the German online auction business earlier this year by acquiring startup auction site Alando.de. The company is facing tough competition from Ricardo.de, which sells new items. Additionally, there are several sites that focus on business-to business, such as GoIndustry.com, which specializes in used industrial machinery.

When selling companies online, eBayPro charges its normal three percent commission of the first 1,000 marks ($515 US$) of the sale price and 1.5 percent of the remaining sum.

About eBay

eBay has become a virtual auction block for more than 2,000 categories of merchandise, from Beanie Babies to fine antiques. eBay boasts about 7.7 million registered users, and the number of items auctioned in 1998 exceeded 33 million.

The company generates revenue by taking a percentage of each sale, and has raised its profile by acquiring traditional auction house Butterfield & Butterfield.

Chairman and founder Pierre Omidyar owns about 31 percent of eBay, while VP Jeffrey Skoll and CEO Margaret (“Meg”) Whitman own nearly 19 percent and six percent, respectively.

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