eBay, the online-auction website, is selling its majority stake in Skype, the internet-phone company, for about $2 billion (£1.2 billion). According to reports, eBay will keep 35% stake in Skype. The deal values Skype at $2.75 billion.
The deal, say reports, will be finalized by the last three months of 2009.
Skype, which eBay had bought for $2.6 billion in 2005, is to be majority-owned by a group of private investors, including Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of Netscape, Andreessen Horowitz, a new venture-capital company headed by Marc Andreessen, Index Ventures, as well as the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and private equity firm Silver Lake.
The new investors are to pay $1.9 billion in cash. A note for $125-million will be given to eBay, promising to pay the amount on demand or at an agreed time.
Earlier in 2009, eBay had said that it was planning to spin off Skype and list its shares in the first half of 2010 – which indicated that Skype was for sale.
eBay had paid over $3 billion for Skype, including payouts to Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, who founded Skype in 2003.
A year after it was bought, ebay wrote down the value of Skype to $1.2 billion.
The software of Skype allows users of computers and mobile phones to talk to each other free of charge as well as make cut-price calls to landlines and mobiles.
While traditional mobile calls are transmitted over a cellular network, Skype turns voice into data and then sends it over the internet.
Since eBay bought Skype, the number of registered Skype users went up to 405 million from 53 million.
According to some reports, eBay had negotiated with Google over buying Skype, but Google opted to abandon a deal fearing that prolonged litigation could lead to paying huge amounts in damages.