By Cara Lombardo, Corrie Driebusch and Miriam Gottfried
EBay Inc. is taking steps toward a potential sale of its classified-ads business, which could be worth roughly $10 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.
Private-equity firms including TPG and Blackstone Group Inc. and strategic bidders including Naspers Ltd. and German publishing company Axel Springer SE have recently expressed interest in the business, the people said. The company has also started reaching out to other potential buyers.
Indications of interest for the classifieds business are due in March, they said. The classifieds unit primarily operates internationally and allows users to post goods and services in their local communities, similar to Craigslist in the U.S. For much of the past year, San Jose, Calif.-based eBay has been mulling its options for the unit, which could also include a spinoff or joint venture.
Internet conglomerate Naspers has an existing classifieds business called OLX Group that operates in more than 30 countries. Axel Springer, which is backed by private-equity firm KKR & Co., and owns Business Insider and Rolling Stone magazine, also owns several online advertising and classifieds businesses.
It has been a time of tumult for eBay, a one-time internet darling whose core marketplace business has been weakened by the rise of Amazon.com Inc. A company that once housed fast-growing brands ranging from PayPal to StubHub has been slowly peeling them off as their prospects diverge from those of the marketplace.
New York Stock Exchange parent Intercontinental Exchange Inc. recently approached eBay about buying the company, with a primary interest in the marketplace business, but had to walk back its interest after its own shareholders balked at the idea.
Should eBay, which has a market value of roughly $30 billion, sell the classifieds business, it would primarily be left with its core marketplace operation.
Two activist hedge funds, Elliott Management Corp. and Starboard Value LP, took stakes in eBay last year and urged it to consider selling its ticketing and classifieds businesses. Both reached agreements with eBay that gave them board representation. In November, eBay agreed to sell StubHub to Viagogo Entertainment Inc. for $4.05 billion.
EBay's Chief Executive Devin Wenig stepped down from the company in September, citing disagreements with the board that was overseeing the company's strategic review. EBay has yet to name a permanent replacement.
Write to Cara Lombardo at firstname.lastname@example.org, Corrie Driebusch at email@example.com and Miriam Gottfried at Miriam.Gottfried@wsj.com