April 11, 2009

Skype Co-Founders Considering Buyback

The two founders of Internet phone service Skype may be seeking to buy their company back from eBay Inc., who acquired the firm four years ago.

Co-founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis have contacted several private equity firms in order to make a bid for the company, according to a New York Times report on Saturday.

Zennstrom, from Sweden, and Friis, from Denmark, founded Skype in  2003, and sold it two years later to eBay, whose former CEO Meg Whitman believed could be marketed to its audience of auction sellers and buyers.

In 2008, the fast-growing company, which lets customers call each other for free, posted $550 million in revenue.

EBay's current CEO, John Donahoe, has said that Skype is not synergistic with the company's business, and that he would do what was in the best interest of both eBay and Skype.  His remarks have been interpreted by some on Wall Street as an interest in selling Skype.

The Times report said it was not clear whether active negotiations were underway between Skype's co-founders and eBay.  The report cited a source knowledgeable of the talks that said  Friis and Zennstrom were looking to raise roughly $1 billion in equity from private investors.

The source said that another possible scenario might be for eBay to contribute the remainder of the financing via a seller's note in a deal  estimated to exceed $2 billion. 

Analysts have been pushing eBay to sell of spin off Skype or Web payments service PayPal to allow the company to return more value to shareholders.

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