eBay seals $1.9 billion Skype sale to former Netscape founder, partners

EBay (EBAY), the giant online auctioneer, announced a deal Tuesday morning to sell its Internet phone service Skype to a group of private investors, including Marc Andreessen, the billionaire co-founder of Netscape.

In a statement, eBay said it will receive $1.9 billion in cash for Skype -- which is expected to earn revenue of $600 million this year -- and retain a 35 percent equity investment in Skype. EBay said the deal values the company at $2.75 billion, and expects to close the deal in the fourth quarter of this year.

EBay's 2005 acquisition of Skype has come to be seen as one of the worst high tech deals in recent history. The giant auctioneer was never able to integrate Skype, an Internet phone service, into its business plan and was ultimately forced to write down the value of Skype by $900 million.
Earlier this year, eBay had said it would be spinning off Skype in an IPO sometime in 2010, but as TechCrunch -- which originally broke news of the forthcoming sale last week -- observed, "These announcements are often made to generate acquisition offers from potential suitors."

Skype reported 405 million users by the end of 2008, a 47 percent increase from 2007.

EBay issued at statement Tuesday morning announcing the sale.

"This is a great deal, unlocking both immediate and long-term value for eBay and tremendous potential for Skype," said eBay President and CEO John Donahoe. "We've acted decisively on a deal that delivers a high valuation, gives us significant cash up-front and lets us retain a meaningful minority stake with talented partners. Skype is a strong standalone business, but it does not have synergies with our e-commerce and online payments businesses. As a separate company, we believe that Skype will have the focus required to compete effectively in online voice and video communications and accelerate its growth momentum."
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Full eBay statement:

eBay Inc. Signs Definitive Agreement to Sell Skype in Deal Valuing Communications Business at $2.75 Billion

eBay to Receive Approximately $1.9 Billion in Cash; Retain Approximately 35 Percent Stake
SAN JOSE, Calif.–September 01, 2009–

eBay Inc. (NASDAQ:EBAY) today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to sell its Skype communications unit in a deal valuing the business at $2.75 billion. The buyer, who will control an approximately 65 percent stake, is an investor group led by Silver Lake and includes Index Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Investment Board. eBay is expected to receive approximately $1.9 billion in cash upon the completion of the sale and a note from the buyer in the principal amount of $125 million. The company will retain an approximately 35 percent equity investment in Skype. The transaction, which is not subject to a financing condition, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2009.

"This is a great deal, unlocking both immediate and long-term value for eBay and tremendous potential for Skype," said eBay Inc. President and CEO John Donahoe. "We've acted decisively on a deal that delivers a high valuation, gives us significant cash up-front and lets us retain a meaningful minority stake with talented partners. Skype is a strong standalone business, but it does not have synergies with our e-commerce and online payments businesses. As a separate company, we believe that Skype will have the focus required to compete effectively in online voice and video communications and accelerate its growth momentum."

Commenting on the deal, Egon Durban, managing director at Silver Lake, said: "Skype is an innovative, next-generation company that has changed how people and businesses communicate with each other. This transaction benefits all parties involved and will allow Skype the opportunity to accelerate the growth of its business by harnessing the deep technological and company development expertise that resides within the investor group. Josh Silverman has done a strong job leading the company and we look forward to working with Josh and his team to grow the Skype franchise."

In April 2009, eBay announced plans to separate Skype from the company, beginning with an IPO in 2010. The decision followed a year-long review of Skype within eBay's portfolio. As it prepared for an IPO, the company said it would naturally consider bids for Skype that offered an attractive valuation. Donahoe said the deal offered by the investor group achieved that.

"This deal achieves our goal of delivering short- and long-term value to eBay and its stockholders, without the possible delays and market risk of an IPO," Donahoe said. "Selling Skype now at this great valuation, while retaining an equity stake, makes sense for the company. And it allows us to focus all of our energies on the opportunities in front of PayPal and eBay."

Acquired by eBay in 2005, Skype has strengthened considerably since early 2008 when Donahoe was named eBay's CEO and tapped company executive Josh Silverman to lead Skype. Silverman has driven strong momentum while building a new management team and delivering a series of Skype innovations such as software upgrades with dramatically improved video and calling quality, the widely popular Skype iPhone app and mobile partnerships with companies such as Nokia and Hutchison. In 2008, Skype generated revenues of $551 million, a 44 percent increase compared to 2007. Total eBay Inc. revenues for 2008 were $8.5 billion. Registered Skype users reached 405 million by the end of 2008, a 47 percent increase from 2007. Skype is attracting hundreds of thousands of new users each week.


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