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Rumor: Skype's Founders Want to Buy It Back from eBay

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April 13, 2009

Rumor: Skype's Founders Want to Buy It Back from eBay

By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor

On the heels of launching its application for Apple Inc.’s iPhone, eBay (News - Alert)-owned Internet calling service Skype reportedly is being eyed by its founders for repurchase.

Citing unnamed sources Brad Stone of the New York Times reports in this article that Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Frii, who sold Skype (News - Alert) to eBay in 2005 for $2.6 billion, are talking to private equity firms and putting their money behind a project to bid for the service.
“Skype has more than 405 million registered users, up from 53 million when eBay bought it, and the service had $145 million in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2008,” Stone reports.
And the outlook for Skype's market share is positive.
As TMCnet reported, a communications market research firm with U.S. headquarters in Washington, D.C. is hailing Skype as an emerging platform of choice for international callers.
Officials at TeleGeography say that international traffic using Luxembourg-based Skype is soaring to new heights, with a 41 percent uptick in 2008, to a total of about 33 billion minutes.
TeleGeography analyst Stephan Beckert (News - Alert) called the increase “remarkable.”
“Only five years after its launch, Skype has emerged as the largest provider of cross-border voice communications in the world,” Beckert said.
A spokesperson for Skype said the company doesn’t comment on rumors. When reached by TMCnet, an eBay spokesperson, Jose Mallabo, said his company also does not comment on rumors or speculation.
Skype has grabbed big headlines in the communications technology space in recent weeks.
As TMCnet reported here, businesses using SIP-based IP-PBX systems soon will be able to place calls with a new service from Skype. Officials at Skype say that businesses can now be reached by a community of more than 405 million Skype registered users through click-to-call from their business Web sites.
Here’s how it would work: Calls will be received through an existing office system (at no cost to the customer). Or, businesses can use Skype’s low-cost calling rates when placing calls to landlines and mobiles from devices connected to their PBX systems. They also can buy online Skype numbers (available in more than 20 nations) to receive calls from business contacts and customers who are using traditional fixed lines or mobile phones.
As TMC’s Greg Galitzine (News - Alert) writes here, Skype’s move was only a matter of time.
“The financial benefits are clear, allowing businesses to connect to over 400 million registered Skype users while offering the features and integration capabilities of traditional office PBX systems,” Galitzine writes.
Skype – which has seen more than 2 million downloads of its iPhone (News - Alert) app – says here that it’s preparing to release an app for BlackBerry smartphones next month.
According to Stone’s report, eBay has said in the past Skype “has few synergies” with the parent company’s e-commerce and payments businesses.
“In addition, John J. Donahoe, eBay’s chief executive, has repeatedly signaled his willingness to sell Skype for the right price,” Stone reports.
According to stone, one person with knowledge of discussions said the company’s founders were trying to raise about $1 billion in equity from private investors, and would put up their own money to offer a total of more than $2 billion.

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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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