eBay is acquiring Bill Me Later, and said it expects to add the service to the eBay marketplace and the PayPal Merchant Services platform sometime next year. Bill Me Later (BML) offers transaction-based credit to online shoppers at the time of checkout. But BML does not have a bank charter. Instead, it must go through its partner, CIT Bank.
It means Bay must rely on a third-party industrial loan company for the model to work, and with the current credit crunch, it's an interesting time for eBay to get in to the mix.
With eBay owning PayPal and soon BML, it will have some interesting data about sales around the Internet on various merchant sites and marketplaces, including Amazon and Overstock. But an analyst told the Washington Post he expects Amazon, which he said has about a 10 percent stake in Bill Me Later, to "sever their relationship." I take that to mean he expects Amazon to remove the Bill Me Later service as an option on its checkout flow.
I always wonder in these acquisitions who needs whom the most. eBay feels BML can increase sales on its site by making it easier for consumers to purchase items (but couldn't eBay have used the service without having to purchase it?). It also likes the synergies with PayPal.
As for BML, wouldn't Amazon.com make more sense as an acquirer since it already had a stake? Or did eBay just have more cash it was willing to use in BML's operations? BML clearly likes eBay's cash and line of credit - from today's AuctionBytes Newsflash article: "eBay represents a large balance sheet with a tremendous amount of liquidity in cash that will enable us to grow well into the future."
eBay is set to roll out its next-gen checkout early next year in an electronics-only payment flow, where BML could be inserted as an option for shoppers. But as eBay observers know, a major change to eBay's technology platform such as the new checkout represents is easier said than done, and will likely come with some bumps in the road.
Update: Saul Hansell's take on the acquisition is a must-read (New York Times blog).