Rather than enduring the uncertainty of spinning off the Skype telecommunications service through a public stock offering, eBay Inc has found a different way out: It is selling the majority of Skype for about US$2 billion to a group of private investors.
The deal will help eBay undo its 2005 acquisition of Skype, a deal that puzzled analysts. Despite Skype's strong, steady growth, it was hard to see how eBay, which specializes in running online marketplaces and facilitating Internet payments, needed to own a service that lets people make free or cheap calls on cell phones and computers.
eBay said on Tuesday that it will trade a 65 percent stake in the business to a group of private investment funds for US$1.9 billion in cash and US$125 million to be paid later. eBay will own the other 35 percent.
Investors in the group of buyers include Web browser pioneer and eBay board member Marc Andreessen and former Skype board members Danny Rimer and Mike Volpi.
The deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter, halts at least temporarily a plan eBay announced in April to spin off Skype through an initial public offering. Skype's management team, including President Josh Silverman, will stay in place through the change in control, and eBay will retain one seat on Skype's board.
The agreement values Skype at US$2.75 billion, about US$380 million less than the US$3.13 billion eBay paid for Skype - which includes the original acquisition price of US$2.6 billion, plus US$530 million paid in 2007.
(Shanghai Daily September 3, 2009)