Internet Auction Giant eBay Will Sell Skype to Private Investors

Internet auction giant eBay Inc. may announce today it will sell its Skype Internet phone unit to a group of private investors, the New York Times reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.

The buyers will probably include Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm headed by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, and Index Ventures, a private-equity firm that invested in Skype before eBay acquired it, the newspaper said. Silver Lake Partners is also expected to be involved, according to the newspaper, reports Bloomberg.

According to MarketWatch, price was not disclosed, but eBay has said it wants around $2 billion for Skype, which is set to make more than $600 million in revenue this year. The investment group is likely to include Andreessen Horowitz, while Index Ventures, a London-based venture capital firm that was an early investor in Skype, and the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners were also involved.

The auction company said in April it had planned an initial public offering for the Skype division next year, but the Times noted eBay has since been in talks with companies and investment groups interested in making the purchase.

Last month, eBay negotiated with Internet giant Google over Skype, which bypasses the standard telephone network by channeling voice and video calls over the Web, the newspaper said. But Google walked away from the deal.

Since the sale to eBay, the number of Skype users has exploded from 53 million to 405 million. Skype allows users to call each other free of charge and to connect with land lines or mobile devices at low rates, AFP informs.

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