eBay to separate Skype via IPO

eBay said it planned to spin off Skype from the company, launching it on the open market in the first half of next year.

The announcement comes days after the revelation that Skype's founders, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, were interested in buying the company back from eBay.

eBay's announcement would appear to be a response to this offer. But eBay CEO John Donahoe said he launched a year-long evaluation of Skype - and how well it fits in with eBay's core business - in April 2008.

Donahoe had always planned to make a decision about Skype's future following the evaluation, he said.

"Skype is a great stand-alone business with strong fundamentals and accelerating momentum," Donahoe said. "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."

Donahoe said eBay would focus entirely on its two core growth engines, e-commerce and online payments.

As part of the refocusing, eBay sold web content discovery service StumbleUpon back to the site's co-founders this week.  eBay paid $75 million for the site in May 2007.

Skype generated revenues of $551 million - with margins of around 21% - in 2008, and expects to top $1 billion in revenue by 2011, Donahoe said.