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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

US online giant eBay to sell Skype: report

US online auction giant eBay will announce Tuesday a plan to sell its Web communication service Skype to an investment group, The New York Times reported.

The group of private investors would likely include Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm headed by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, the newspaper said, citing two people briefed on eBay's plans.

London-based venture capital firm Index Ventures, an early investor in Skype, and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners were also involved in the arrangement, whose value was not disclosed.

But the Times noted that eBay has said it wants about two billion dollars for Skype, which could take in over $600 million in revenue this year.

eBay purchased Skype in 2005 for a price tag that eventually exceeded $3.1 billion, including payouts to Web entrepreneurs Niklas Zennstrom of Sweden and Janus Friis of Denmark, who founded the company in 2003.

But eBay found it difficult to integrate the company with its core auction business and later wrote down $900 million of Skype's value.

The auction company said in April it had planned an initial public offering for the Skype division next year, but the Times noted eBay has since been in talks with companies and investment groups interested in making the purchase.

Last month, eBay negotiated with Internet giant Google over Skype, which bypasses the standard telephone network by channeling voice and video calls over the Web, the newspaper said. But Google walked away from the deal.

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.

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