Internet phoning leader Skype has filed for an IPO, possibly capping years of Byzantine financial intrigues. The Luxembourg-based company said it expects to sell as much as $100 million of depositary shares held by existing owners.
Founded in 2003, Skype pioneered VoIP calling and now claims 560 million registered users with 52 to 124 million active users; 8.1 million of those customers pay for the service. Users can call other Skype users free of charge and calls to public phone networks are completed at low rates.
From its earliest days, the firm showed interest in floating an IPO, but it was acquired by eBay for $2.6 billion and additional later considerations. The VoIP service proved to be a poor fit and eBay moved to jettison Skype. Its co-founder Niklas Zennstrom said eBay had paid too much for Skype.
Zennstrom and co-founder Janus Friis then filed litigation against eBay, which had failed to acquire key Skype software when it purchased the VoIP company. The litigation was settled when the Skype founders received an undisclosed amount of Skype equity. Now, they stand to cash in again because of the IPO.
In a complex financing maneuver, eBay sold its majority interest to investors from Skype Global and retained a substantial interest in the firm. Silver Lake Partners, a private equity firm, played a leading role in the creation of the firm's new finances.
Skype said its first half profit was $13.1 million on revenue of $406.2 million. In the year-earlier period, Skype had revenue of $325 million. The firm offers voice, video and text services and its video has grown rapidly in recent months -- now accounting for some 40% of Skype's minutes.