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Teaching Note: Case 38 eBay: Expanding into Asia


Case Objectives


  1. To discuss the decisions and actions that a firm has to undertake to sustain a competitive advantage, especially when pursuing international growth.


Case Synopsis


Since its inception in 1995, eBay had enjoyed strong revenue growth, and was a dominant player in the worldwide online auction industy. In 2008, new CEO John Donahoe reported an impressive 11 percent increase in revenue from the previous year, with an operating margin of 24 percent. EBay created revenue from three sources through multiple online products and services: eBay’s marketplace received merchandise fees from items sold either by auction or fixed-price transaction; the payment division received financial transaction fees from its PayPal service; and communication fees were received primarily via customer use of Skype.


Despite eBay’s outstanding growth performance, achieved mainly through both foreign and U.S. acquisitions, the company still faced a number of challenges in both domestic and international markets.As a growth strategy, eBay had created options and targeted distinct market niches to distinguish itself from competitors. This was particularly important because as e-commerce and Internet usage rates continued to grow, so would the market opportunity for eBay. Because of its market-leading brand, eBay was in a unique position to capture a significant share of the market at an early stage. eBay had grown to successfully compete in certain international markets, including Europe and Latin America, but had been unable to penetrate the Asia Pacific market.


eBay’s joint ventures in Asia, first with Tom Online in China, and then with Gmarket in South Korea, had not yet allowed it to achieve significant market share. Considering that the Asia Pacific region had more than 50 percent of the world’s population and was experiencing some of the largest online usage growth percentages in the world, tapping into this market was critical for eBay to expand. Why had it been unsuccessful?


Teaching Plan


The eBay case is an investigation of a company that chose to pursue growth into an international environment where it had little experience. A discussion of eBay’s difficulties can provide an opportunity for comparison to the other international cases such as Heineken, Lenovo, Geely, and McDonald’s. As such, this case is best positioned mid-way through the course, after students have had an introduction to the concepts of strategy analysis and formulation.


Summary of Discussion Questions


Here is a list of the suggested discussion questions. You can decide which questions to assign, and also which additional readings or exercises to include to augment each discussion. Refer back to the Case Objectives Table to identify any additional readings and/or exercises so they can be assigned in advance.


Discussion Questions:


  1. How did eBay pursue international growth?


  1. What source of competitive advantage does eBay have, and is that position supported by its resources and assets? Does eBay deal effectively with its external environment in Asia?


Discussion Questions and Responses


1.      How did eBay pursue international growth?

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