Microsoft plans to acquire Skype for $8.5 billion, making the VOIP provider a new business division within the company.
Microsoft plans to acquire Internet communications provider
Skype for $8.5 billion.
Under the terms of the agreement, Skype will transform into
a business division within Microsoft, headed by Skype CEO Tony Bates. Skype
will support Microsoft products such as Windows Phone and Kinect, and integrate
with Microsoft's already extensive
communications portfolio, which includes services such as Lync and Messenger.
Rumors circulated for days that Skype, having delayed its
$100 million IPO, was eyeing a partnership with another tech giant. However,
reports pegged either Google or Facebook as the suitor in question, with a
May 4 Reuters article
suggesting-based on unnamed sources "with direct
knowledge of the discussions"-that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was "involved
in internal discussions" about either a joint venture or outright
Skype previously found itself an acquisition target in 2005,
when eBay agreed to pay $2.6 billion in cash and stock for the then
two-year-old company. Four years later, the auction site announced it would
sell a majority of its Skype holdings to a team of private investors for $1.9
billion in cash. By the second half of 2010, Skype boasted an average of 124
million connected users a month, and was reportedly trying to raise money for
an IPO. However, that offering was delayed after the company appointed Tony
Bates to the role of CEO in October.
Although Skype remains a recognizable brand worldwide-and
claims some 25 percent of the world's international long-distance voice-calling
minutes-it faced rising competition from Google and smaller VOIP (voice-over-IP)
services. In January, the company announced that it had entered into a
definitive agreement to purchase Qik, a provider of mobile video software and
services. Online reports at the time pegged the price tag at $100 million,
although neither company official disclosed the terms of the deal.
While Skype will surely buttress Microsoft's existing
communications portfolio, some analysts aren't quite so enchanted about the
"Wall Street hated the deal when eBay bought it, and they
only paid 1/4 of what Microsoft is now paying," Roger Kay, founder and
president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, wrote in a May 10 email to
eWEEK. "In eight years, Skype hasn't made any money, and even at the operating
level, it would take three decades to pay out in cash terms alone."
Other analysts seem more upbeat.
"Skype refreshes the Microsoft customer base with 170
million early-adopter progressive users," Ray Wang, principal analyst and CEO
at Constellation Research, wrote in a May 10 email to eWEEK. "Microsoft gets a
social platform that accelerates its work on Lync. Microsoft will gain a VOIP
platform critical for future unified communications."
Microsoft will fill out details in a live press conference
scheduled for 11 a.m. EST.