eBay Sells Skype for Less Than 05 Purchase Price

eBay Inc.’s (EBAY) announcement today that it’s selling Skype for about $1.9 billion – even though some outlets are hyping it as a $2.75 billion valuation – is garnering mixed reactions.

For one thing, the amount doesn’t begin to make up for the $3.1 billion eBay paid in 2005 for the peer-to-peer VoIP service provider, or the subsequent $1.4 billion writedown in 2007. For another, eBay had planned to take Skype public early next year, a move that promised to put the profitable Skype on a more solid path.

The new owners, if the deal goes through, will include private equity firm Silver Lake, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Index Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital fund founded by eBay board member Marc Andreessen this year. eBay had to agree to take on about $125 million in short-term debt, although it is keeping a 35 percent stake in Skype.

eBay has had little luck with Skype over the years. The online auction giant never made good on plans to integrate Skype as a vendor customer service tool – poor management and legal tussles with Skype founders over technology kept that from happening. Indeed, earlier this year, Skype’s founders, Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, had lined up private investors to help them buy back their company. Amid all the back and forth, eBay two years ago was forced to take a huge hit on its Skype investment.

Skype’s new buyers appear to be gaining a still-booming service. Research firm TeleGeography said Tuesday that Skype generated 43.4 billion minutes of free, computer-to-computer traffic in 2007 and 65.5 billion minutes in 2008. Skype also reported 5.6 billion minutes of paid, computer-to-telephone traffic in 2007, and 8.4 billion minutes in 2008, according to TeleGeography.

eBay’s shares had fallen 2.71 percent to $21.54 by 1:11 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday.

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