Live auctions is the future for eBay

Fresh off an impressive earnings report and a significant court victory, eBay said it will expand its live auctions feature to give users access to items being sold at auction houses around the world, according to a report by

eBay said it would link with London-based to widen the reach of its Live Auctions feature, first unveiled last September, to as many as 300 additional auction houses around the world.

Geoff Iddison, general manager of eBay’s Premiere auction division, said the alliance will enable eBay customers ‘to bid on a wider selection of works of art from leading auction houses’ and enable eBay to ‘potentially become the de facto standard for live real-time bidding.’

eBay has been searching for the best way to blend the Web and live auctions-with their focus on expensive art, rare antiques and other high-end items-for the past two years.

In 1999, the company paid $260 million for Butterfield & Butterfield, the fourth largest auction house in the U.S. But it has since closed some of the firm’s auction houses and laid off workers, including 15 percent of the staff last November, to cut costs.

Attempts by others to blend the two auction worlds have hit speed bumps as well. A much-touted alliance between Sotheby’s and broke down after less than a year in business, with Sotheby’s saying it would start up its own direct Web site operation.

However, eBay said that its Live Auctions have proved popular with bidders, with 30 percent of all lots placed up for sale drawing bids from the Web and 20 percent of lots being sold to Web-based bidders.

On Thursday, eBay won a notable court victory when a California judge dismissed a $100 million lawsuit that alleged that eBay was liable for fake sports memorabilia sold on the auction site.

Analysts also credit eBay’s stellar earnings report with providing a boost to all e-commerce stocks. While outpacing Wall Street earnings estimates, eBay said its sites saw $1.6 billion worth of goods change hands during the fourth quarter, a 76 percent increase over the year before.

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