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eBay Launches 'Auction for America'

Auction giant eBay Inc., responding to a call for help from New York Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, launched "Auction for America," a new sales area in which eBay users can buy and sell goods specifically to raise funds to aid those affected by the events of last week.

eBay said it "has challenged itself," through its community of 34 million registered users, to raise $100 million in 100 days. Ironically, eBay had to start removing sale listings for World Trade Center and Pentagon artifacts put up by profiteers shortly after the attacks last Tuesday.

"eBay has stepped up in an unprecedented way, providing yet another example of how New Yorkers and people throughout the world are coming together to support the victims of this horrible attack," the governor said.

Meanwhile, eBay today affirmed that it "is comfortable" with current First Call consensus revenue and EPS estimates for the third quarter of 2001, which call for earnings of 11 cents per share on $185 million in net revenues.

eBay said in a statement that "this update includes both the general business impact relating to the tragic events of September 11, and third-quarter impact resulting from eBay's "Auction for America" charity initiative." eBay reports third quarter results on Oct. 18.

However, analysts with Goldman, Sachs & Co. aren't quite as confident about those numbers.

In a revision late Tuesday, the New York-based investment research firm says it feels the recent events combined with the charity auction will aggravate the declining trend in consumer confidence, resulting in a slowdown in consumer spending.

"We believe that eBay lost approx $1-$2.5 million in revenue last week, and that it will likely lose an equivalent amount over the last 2 weeks of the quarter," GS said in a statement.

The lowered expectations are $188 million for the quarter, still slightly higher than eBay's affirmation, but significantly lower than the high-end sum of $193 million in net revenues the Street was expecting.

eBay said sellers can now list items that are earmarked for the "September 11th Fund." The Fund, established by the United Way of New York City and the New York Community Trust, is focused on short-term emergency assistance to provide for the urgent needs of people affected by the attacks.

Additional charities will be added "as soon as technically feasible," eBay said, and cash donations also are being accepted.

Other name brands on the Web, including America Online, Amazon.com, MSN.com and Yahoo!, among many others, also have made donation mechanisms available to their visitors. Amazon says on its site that visitors have donated more than $6 million so far, and AOL users have coughed up $4 million.

"This is something we have to do," said Meg Whitman, president and CEO of eBay. "The people affected by the horrible attacks in New York and Washington need our help. The creative and entrepreneurial spirit of eBay's community is unstoppable and can do tremendous good in this time of great need."

Benefit sale items will be highlighted throughout the eBay marketplace so that buyers can clearly identify them. Once a sale is made, all proceeds will be contributed directly to the charity selected by the seller.

In order for eBay to guarantee payments to the charities, all "Auction for America" transactions will be processed through Billpoint, eBay's online credit card payments service.

eBay, along with its partners, Visa USA, MasterCard International and Wells Fargo Bank, said they will waive all of their customary fees. The eBay Foundation will contribute the first $1 million.

Marketing firm ChannelAdvisor, meanwhile, said it is waiving all fees for its management services to assist retailers and manufacturers in selling items through the Auction for America. Companies participating in the benefit include Palm, JC Whitney, Omaha Steaks, West Marine, Restaurant.com, Outlet Computer, ABT Electronics, MovieGoods, BargainBuilder and EconoZone.