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Skype's the limit for eBay: Voip biz sold to private investors

Hangs on to 35 per cent of biz, ditches IPO

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

It’s official - eBay has offloaded a majority stake in Skype to a gaggle of investors in a deal that values the VoIP outfit at $2.75bn.

eBay keeps a 35 per cent stake in Skype. The online auction giant will get $1.9bn in cash.

eBay offered to buy Skype for $2.6bn in 2005. But when earnouts were included eBay actually paid over $3bn for the VoIP outfit.

It later wrote down the company’s value by $900m.

The new owners include Silver Lake Partners, Index Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz - the venture capital firm co-founded by Netscape founder and eBay board member Marc Andreessen. The deal is also backed by the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board.

They will command a 65 per cent interest in Skype.

eBay was at pains to point out today that it wasn’t crying into its beer with the majority sell-off of its stake in Skype.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the talented players that make up this investment group will enable strong growth of Skype in the years to come,” said eBay boss John Donahoe.

Skype's president Josh Silverman is staying on at the firm.

eBay said Skype pulled in $551m sales in 2008, up 44 per cent compared to 2007. At the end of last year the VoIP outfit claimed 405 million users of its service worldwide. Of course users of, mostly, free web services are not always the most loyal punters and Skype now has lots of competing VoIP firms.

eBay said it expects Skype to be making $1bn in revenues by 2011.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter. ®

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