eBay today announced it plans to spin Skype off as a stand alone publicly traded company in the first half of 2010.

Action at last. But surely the VoIP provider’s parent company has to resolve legal issues centred around its core P2P technology – and involving Skype’s founders – before the planned Initial Public Offering (IPO) can take place?

The IPO move follows mounting pressure for eBay to act over Skype’s future, which despite its success has "limited synergies" with the ecommerce giant.

As eBay’s President and CEO, John Donahoe, said in a company statement: "Skype is a great stand-alone business with strong fundamentals and accelerating momentum.
"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.

"This will give Skype the focus and resources required to continue its growth and effectively compete in online voice and video communications.

"In addition, separating Skype will allow eBay to focus entirely on our two core growth engine – e-commerce and online payments – and deliver long-term value to our stockholders."

While the IPO move suggests eBay is preparing to sell Skype to an outside buyer, there is still the question of a possible bid from the founders of Skype Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis.

The London-based pair are reported to have approached a number of private equity firms and are gathering their own personal resources to make an offer for Skype.

To complicate issues, a company controlled by Niklas and Janus, JoltID, sued Skype over the issue of core P2P technology. Skype/EBay later filed a counter suit.

So the possibility of on-going litigation will surely need to be cleared up before an IPO can be considered.

The thorny question of a realistic price – and willing buyer – for Skype is another hindrance to eBay off-loading it.

Analysts believe eBay wants at least USD $1.7 billion, this being the value of the calling service on its balance sheet after it wrote off part of the acquisition in 2007.

eBay bought Skype in 2005 for USD $2.6 billion,, with subsequent payments raising this sum to USD $3.1 billion.

Skype had sales of USD $551 million in 2008 and ended the year with 405 million registered users. Skype expects to top USD $1 billion in revenue in 2011, nearly doubling 2008 revenues.

Should be an interesting few months ahead for everyone involved.

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