eBay to Launch Skype IPO

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Randy Savicky
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eBay to Launch Skype IPO

It just gets better and better - First, there was the legal fight between Joltid (Niklas Zennstrom) and Skype/eBay that I wrote about. Then the NY Times reported that Skype's founders, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, were in talks with several private equity firms to make a bid to buy back Skype. Now, eBay today announced they want to spin off Skype as an IPO. Apparently, they don't like the bid prices offered by Niklas and Janus. eBay probably didn't like the patent threats by Joltid run by Niklas and Janus either.

I'm not sure in this current economic climate that a technology-based IPO is a good idea. Heck, any IPO at this point is very risky. This could be a bluff by eBay to get Zennstrom and Friis to raise their offering price for Skype and to counter the Joltid lawsuit. Can't we all just get along? What's a few billion dollars between friends?

Check out the full announcement below:
eBay Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY) today announced that it plans to separate Skype from the company, beginning with an initial public offering that is intended to be completed in the first half of 2010. Specific timing of the IPO will be based on market conditions. "Skype is a great stand-alone business with strong fundamentals and accelerating momentum," said eBay Inc.'s President and CEO, John Donahoe. "But it's clear that Skype has limited synergies with eBay and PayPal. We believe operating Skype as a stand-alone publicly traded company is the best path for maximizing its potential. This will give Skype the focus and resources required to continue its growth and effectively compete in online voice and video communications. In addition, separating Skype will allow eBay to focus entirely on our two core growth engines--e-commerce and online payments--and deliver long-term value to our stockholders."

The decision to separate Skype is based on a timeline outlined by Donahoe when he became eBay's CEO in April 2008. At the time, the company said it would spend a year evaluating Skype and its potential synergies within the eBay Inc. portfolio before making any decisions about Skype's future. Donahoe also installed a new management team at Skype led by Josh Silverman, which has driven stronger momentum and improved performance. In 2008, Skype generated revenues of $551 million, up 44 percent from 2007, and segment margins of approximately 21 percent. Registered users reached 405 million by the end of 2008, up 47 percent from 2007, and user metrics improved significantly throughout the year. The company recently announced that it expects Skype to top $1 billion in revenue in 2011, nearly doubling 2008 revenues.

"Under the leadership of Josh Silverman and his management team, Skype has become a stronger business in the past year, and I expect it will be even stronger a year from now," Donahoe said. "Skype has accelerating global user growth and strong fundamentals, diversified revenue streams and is competitively positioned in a large market. We expect Josh and his team to continue delivering results as we prepare Skype for an IPO."

Most recently, the release of the Skype for iPhone application has generated a great response. More than one million people downloaded Skype for iPhone in the first 36 hours after it became available--and Skype immediately became the No. 1 downloaded free iPhone application in more than 40 markets, including the U.S., UK and Japan. In just over a week, downloads passed the two million mark, putting Skype on more than 6 percent of all iPhones and iPod Touch - and adding almost half a million new Skype users.




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