The online auctioneer and the pioneering VoIP service could part ways within a year, if all goes well.
Online auction giant eBay is planning to take plans its Skype Internet telephony unit public, with an Initial Public Offer planned for the first half of 2010.
The move could mark the final chapter in eBay's (NASDAQ: EBAY) dealings with Skype, the Voice over IP ((VoIP) service it purchased in 2005 for $2.6 billion — and has been struggling to figure out ever since.
While Skype has proven a rousing success — the unit took in revenues of $551 million in 2008, up 44 percent from 2007 — eBay never achieved a way to leverage the VoIP firm to help its core auction business.
«;Skype is a great stand-alone business with strong fundamentals and accelerating momentum,» eBay CEO John Donahoe said in a statement. «But it's clear that Skype has limited synergies with eBay and PayPal. We believe operating Skype as a stand-alone publicly traded company is the best path for maximizing its potential.»
Donahoe said a Skype IPO would give the unit «the focus and resources required to continue its growth and effectively compete in online voice and video communications.»
Earlier this week, speculation had circulated that eBay had been in talks with Skype's founders to buy the firm back. Those talks eventually petered out, according to media reports.
The company provided few details of its plans for the transaction, leaving it as yet unclear how the deal might be structured — and how much of a stake eBay might retain. It's also not clear how much eBay expects to reap by taking Skype public, though in October 2007, it wrote down about $900 million to establish a more realistic valuation for Skype.
It's also an uncertain move considering the blistering economic climate, which has had a discouraging effect on tech IPOs — to put it mildly — with public offerings among technology and telecom firms having dropped in 2008 to a fragment of the previous year's total number.
Still, Skype may not the only firm playing with the idea of going public. Facebook signaled interest in an IPO late last month, dismissing its CFO and announcing a search for a replacement «with public company experience.»
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