EBay today announced the sale of a 65% stake in VoIP phenomenon Skype to private equity at a price of $1.9B. The buyers are led by Silver Lake, Index Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Ebay will keep a 35% stake in the company, and thus keep a finger in the pie and stay in the game – just in case they were right all along about buying it, just wrong about how to leverage it. The $1.9M pricetag values the overall company at $2.75B, just slightly up from the purchase price – so it may not have been a great deal for Ebay, but it could havebeen a lot worse.
The sense I get is that the world expects Skype to flourish again as a separate entity. Under EBay the company may not have conquered the world, but the yardstick by which its expected success was to be measured was always much too large. Now, having matured from a free, disruptive technology with no clear business plan into a moneymaking machine, it may finally be ready to fulfill some of its early promise.
How might it do that? I have no idea, and nor does anyone else right now. It’s just that VoIP has become increasingly ‘boring’ since Skype went mainstream. Sure it has its bright spots with some interesting newcomers now and then, but watching the cable companies steadily rack up subscribers gets a bit monotonous. Everyone is hoping Skype’s return will bring back some of the mojo to the whole sector. Google Voice and Vonage now have their third musketeer, hopefully he brought his sword.
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