Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: “MSFT”) and Skype Global S.à r.l today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will acquire Skype, the leading Internet communications company, for $8.5 billion in cash from the investor group led by Silver Lake. The agreement has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Skype.
The acquisition will increase the accessibility of real-time video and voice communications, bringing benefits to both consumers and enterprise users and generating significant new business and revenue opportunities. The combination will extend Skype’s world-class brand and the reach of its networked platform, while enhancing Microsoft’s existing portfolio of real-time communications products and services.
Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. Microsoft will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.
Skype will become a new business division within Microsoft, and Skype CEO Tony Bates will assume the title of president of the Microsoft Skype Division, reporting directly to Ballmer.
The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. The parties hope to obtain all required regulatory clearances during the course of this calendar year.
Om Malik has some perspective on why Skype’s owners were anxious for it to be sold and suggests that if Microsoft does not botch the acquisition, the big winner could be Facebook (who already has a relationship with Microsoft) and that a joint announcement could be expected shortly. Still, the big question is how the acquisition will work out, including how much of the Skype team will stay with Microsoft and the basic economics of the Skype service which has already suffered through a failed acquisition by eBay:
Despite its popularity, the service has struggled to maintain profitability. Since most of its services are free, Skype makes much of its income from a small group of users who pay for long distance calls to telephone numbers. In 2010, Skype recorded $859.8 million in revenue but reported a net loss of $7 million, according to a filing.
Microsoft’s deal-making history is mixed. The company has often been an smart acquirer of start-ups and smaller companies, analysts say, picking off technical teams that are then folded into products likes Windows, Office and Internet Explorer. But during Mr. Ballmer’s tenure as chief executive, beginning in 2000, the company has also made far larger, riskier bids, most of which have been viewed as unsuccessful.
In 2005, eBay bought Skype for $2.6 billion with hopes of tightly integrating the service as a sales tool. But the deal never lived up to its promise and eBay took a $1.4 billion write-down on its investment.
I’m frankly a bit dubious about the success or at least profitability of this acquisition since Skype doesn’t even seem to be a side dish, but more of a garnish on Microsoft’s plate and a very expensive garnish at that.
Yesterday Microsoft held their annual Financial Analyst Meeting for 2008 and while you can view the full video and (nearly unreadable) transcripts of the presentations, it was mostly predictable fare. However, there were a few newsworthy nuggets::
"One last thing I wanted to also talk about is an extension of our Facebook relationship where we are extending it to Search and Page Search. We will be providing an API to Facebook where they will create a rich search experience, including a Web search for the Facebook users. And that’s something that they will launch in the fall, working with us, and it’ll carry both our Web results as well as our Page Search advertising."
We still have the possibility of doing a search transaction, which we think makes some economic sense. If I had a worry it’s the parallel paths continue, and about the time Yahoo decides that search deal makes sense for them is probably about the time that we have committed to our own plan so much that it may no longer make sense for us."
Yesterday was Facebook’s big debut party for their new platform designed to milk some cash from their faithful members via “social” advertising. Any sarcasm on my part would be superfluous after Nicholas Carr’s application of a flamethrower, but one interesting aspect was that Microsoft, who a year ago was working with Facebook “on future technology and advertising initiatives” and recently bought a slice of the company, was relegated to the position of being merely one of 60 initial advertisers on the new platform.
So where does Microsoft fit into Facebook’s overall advertising plans? Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explains:
Among the unanswered questions surrounding yesterday’s Microsoft-Facebook deal was whether there were any other investors besides Microsoft in this round of financing. Now rumors are circulating that two hedge funds also chipped in for an additional $500 million.
The early (and possibly incorrect) presumption is that the hedge funds are each getting an equity share equivalent to Microsoft’s %1.6, but of course they aren’t getting any of the ad business. That in turn raises another unanswered question: what kind of advertising revenue share did Microsoft give Facebook? Both parties are taking pains to maintain the fiction of two separate Microsoft-Facebook deals in order to preserve the pristine nature of the $15 billion valuation, but one can’t help but wonder how much Microsoft really paid in total to play with Facebook.
Update 11/1: Facebook board member and investor Jim Breyer says this rumor is incorrect.