eBay is to sell the majority of its stake in internet telephony service Skype to an investment group for nearly $2bn. The deal will see Internet auction giant sell a majority stake in its online phone unit Skype for $1.9bn to private investors including Silver Lake and Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm headed by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen. The deal valued Skype at $2.75bn but was well below the $3.1bn eBay spent in acquiring Skype, and shares in eBay fell more than 2% after the news.
The company said the sale of a 65% stake allows eBay to focus on its auction service and its PayPal electronic payments service and avoid the potential risks of the initial public offering it had slated for Skype for next year.
eBay purchased Skype in 2005 for $3.1bn, including payouts to Web entrepreneurs Niklas Zennstrom of Sweden and Janus Friis of Denmark, who founded the company in 2003.
eBay has claimed Skype could take in over $600m in revenue this year. Since the sale to eBay, the number of Skype users has exploded from 53 million to 405 million. Skype allows users to call each other free of charge and to connect with land lines or mobile devices at low rates. However, eBay has struggled to integrate the company with its core auction business and later wrote down 900 million dollars of Skype’s value.
The auction company said in April it had planned an initial public offering for the Skype division next year, but has since been in talks with companies and investment groups interested in making the purchase.