By Lee Chyen Yee and Argin Chang
HONG KONG (Reuters) - eBay Inc expects sales from greater China to grow 30-40 percent annually from about $4 billion in 2010, with the e-commerce giant seeking acquisition opportunities as part of efforts to expand its footprint in the fast-growing market.
While open to acquisition opportunities in China, eBay finds the overall market frothy.
"We continue to look but only the right opportunity at the right price will make us pull the trigger. As you know, in China, it's overheated right now," said Lee, who is based in Singapore.
With total internet users at 470 million -- exceeding the population of the United States -- China's internet marketplace is dominated by domestic players such as Alibaba Group and E-Commerce China Dangdang Inc.
However, foreign operators have had a tough time gaining a dominant foothold in China, where a growing number of people are going online to trade merchandise such as handbags, shoes, cell phones and computers.
"We're at the stage where we have a very large pocket of strong wealthy consumers in China and they are outside to buy, not just sell, from the eBay platform from around the world," eBay's Asia-Pacific Managing Director Jay Lee told Reuters.
With market capitalization ranking behind Google Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Baidu Inc and Tencent Holdings Ltd, eBay recorded sales of $4-5 billion in Greater China last year over its eBay and PayPal platforms.
The company hopes to leverage its 97 million active users and about 100 million users on its PayPal online payment system worldwide to attract Chinese Internet users.
China's e-commerce transactions grew 65 percent to 192.9 billion yuan ($30 billion) in the second quarter, with the business-to-consumer space up 173 percent to 54.3 billion yuan, data from Beijing-based Analysys International showed.
In 2003, eBay bought Chinese online auction site EachNet for $180 million but failed to dominate that marketplace.
eBay has also been on the e-commerce acquisition trail elsewhere this year, with deals including GSI Commerce Inc, Zong, Magneto and Where, as consumers and companies increasingly trade online.
Alibaba unit Taobao, China's largest e-commerce website, was a relative latecomer to the game, but rapidly gained ground on eBay by offering its services for free, in sharp contrast to the U.S. company, which charges fees for transactions, listings and other services.
The pair engaged in a war on the net and in the media that ended in 2006 when eBay folded its eBay EachNet business into a joint venture run by Hong Kong-listed media company Tom Group Ltd, a move that most considered a withdrawal from the market.
No decision had been made on what would happen after its deal with Tom Group expired later this year, Lee said.
Shares of eBay have risen nearly 10 percent this year, outperforming the Dow's 0.3 percent fall.
(Additional reporting by Melanie Lee in Shanghai; Editing by Chris Lewis)