eBay bought one of the largest online used-car markets in Germany for 121 million euros (USD151.25 million) on January 26. The deal must be approved by German regulators and is expected to close some time in the second quarter.

Mobile.de, the Hamburg-based car site, earned 4 million euros (USD $5 million) in pre-tax profits last year, about 50-percent more than in 2002. The company continues to grow quickly as German online auto sales burgeon. Half of the used cars sold in Germany last year were advertised online.

Mobile.de dominates the German online auto market together with Autoscout24, which was recently purchased by the German Internet firm T-online for 181 million euros (USD $226.25 million). Each firm lists more than 800,000 cars for sale.

eBay won a bidding war for Mobile.de with Yahoo, a consortium of publishing houses, and two other bidders.

The publishing houses – Holtzbrinck, WAZ and Ippen – rank among the many print auto advertisers who have seen their market share shrink dramatically. Even once powerful firms such as Axel Springer and the Suddeutsche Zeitung have seen sharp drop-offs in classified ad sales.