Microsoft Near Deal to Acquire Skype
Microsoft Acquire Internet phone company Skype Technologies SA for $7 billion and $8 Billion the most aggressive move yet by microsoft to play in the increasingly converged worlds of communication, information and entertainment.
Microsoft has invested heavily in marketing and improving the technology of its Bing search engine. While it has made some market share gains over the past year, Google Inc. still dominates the search market with more than 65% of U.S. searches going through its site.
Microsoft, led by its CEO, Steve Ballmer, would be Skype’s fourth owner in eight years.
2003: Skype founded by two software developers, grows to 663 million registered users (8.8 million paying users) by 2011.
2005: EBay buys Skype for $2.6 billion in cash and stock.
2009: EBay sells about 70% to private investors in a deal valuing Skype at $2.75 billion.
2011: Microsoft nears almost $8 billion deal to buy Skype, which posted revenue of $860 million and a $7 million loss in 2010.
At a value close to $8 billion, the Skype deal would rank as the biggest acquisition in the 36-year history of Microsoft, a company that traditionally has shied away from large deals. In 2007, Microsoft paid approximately $6 billion to acquire online advertising firm aQuantive Inc. Many current and former Microsoft executives believe Microsoft significantly overpaid for that deal. But they are also relieved that Microsoft gave up on an unsolicited $48 billion offer for Yahoo Inc. nearly three years ago. Yahoo is valued at half that sum today.
For all its promise, Skype has had a mixed history as an operating business. It has produced little net profit in the eight years since it was founded. Profits continue to remain elusive as the company expands its business world-wide. Last year the company posted revenue of $860 million and $264 million in operating profits, but still had a loss of $7 million. The company had $686 million in long-term debt as of Dec. 31.
Skype uses a technology called voice over Internet protocol, which treats calls as data like email messages and routes them over the Internet, rather than a traditional phone network. Skype’s software, which can be downloaded free, allows users to call other Skype users on computers or certain cellphones for free. Skype users can also call land lines for a fee and conduct video calls.
Skype could play a role in Microsoft’s effort to turn around its fortunes in the mobile-phone market, an area where it has lagged badly behind rivals Apple and Google. The company last year launched a new operating system for mobile phones known as Windows Phone 7 that has been well reviewed by technology critics but hasn’t yet meaningfully improved Microsoft’s market share.
Microsoft will likely need to tread carefully, though, in integrating Skype into its mobile software because of the potential for pushback from wireless carriers, whose support Microsoft badly needs. Skype could give consumers a way to make cheap phone calls over the Internet from mobile phones, without paying higher rates to the carriers.
Last August, Skype filed documents to go public but put its IPO plans on hold after bringing in a new chief executive, Tony Bates. Skype had expected to raise close to $1 billion through its IPO, people familiar with the matter said at the time. At the same time, the Luxembourg-based company entertained conversations in the past with potential buyers and joint-venture partners, including Facebook Inc., Google and Cisco Systems Inc., according to other people familiar with the matter. Skype had sought between $5 billion and $6 billion to sell itself, they added. The blog GigaOm earlier reported news of Microsoft’s interest in Skype.
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