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eBay reaches deal to sell Skype

1 September 09 14:21 GMT

Online auction site eBay has agreed to sell the majority of internet phone company Skype for about $2bn (£1.2bn).

Skype is to be majority-owned by a group of private investors, including Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen and private equity firms.

EBay will keep a 35% stake in the firm, which it has been trying to sell for some time. It has said that Skype had "limited synergies" with it.

The deal values Skype at $2.75bn. EBay bought Skype for $2.6bn in 2005.

The new owners are Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures - which originally invested in Skype - as well as private equity firm Silver Lake and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

They will pay $1.9bn in cash, and give a $125m note to eBay, meaning that it promises to pay that amount on demand or at an agreed time.

For sale

Earlier this year, eBay had said that it planned to spin off Skype and list its shares in the first half of 2010, an announcement many took as a signal that the firm was for sale.

Ebay wrote down the value of the firm to $1.2bn a year after it was taken over.

Including payouts to Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, who founded Skype in 2003, eBay paid over $3bn for the company.

Skype's software lets computer and mobile phone users talk to each other for free and make cut-price calls to mobiles and landlines.

Unlike traditional mobile calls, which are transmitted over a cellular network, Skype turns your voice into data and sends it over the internet.

Since being acquired, the number of registered Skype users has risen to 405 million from 53 million, though free user-to-user calls still dominate the service.

The deal should be finalised by the last three months of the year.

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