eBAY Inc.’s dispute with the founders of its Skype Internet-phone division threatens to delay a Skype initial public offering (IPO) and lower the amount raised.
Skype, which lets users place calls online, told a London court in April that it may have to suspend the service if it can’t resolve the fight. Skype’s founders, who still own a piece of software used by Skype, have accused eBay of breaching a licensing deal. They’re threatening to yank the technology from Skype, disabling the world’s largest provider of international calls.
eBay sued the founders in London to prevent that from happening. Still, the timing of the case may interfere with plans to spin off Skype as an IPO in 2010. If unresolved, the lawsuit also may cut the price eBay gets in the offering, said Randolf Katz, a lawyer at Baker Hostetler in Costa Mesa, California. He isn’t involved in the case.
“The market hates uncertainty because you can’t price around it,” said Katz, who has advised technology companies on corporate finance and IPOs. “The lawsuit is out there, and it will be factored into the price.”
Chief executive officer John Donahoe devised the IPO plan to unlock more value from Skype. He has pegged the business’ value at least $2 billion, saying he’s already rejected at least one offer for Skype.
John Pluhowski, a spokesman for San Jose, California-based eBay, declined to comment. Joltid Ltd., the company operated by Skype’s founders, also declined to comment.
Skype had asked a judge to accelerate the trial. It lost that bid, meaning the case is likely to go to court in the first three months of 2010, Justice Kim Lewison said, according to court transcripts of the April 3 hearing. eBay wants the IPO to happen in the first half of next year.
If Joltid wins, the effect would be “devastating,” Charles Hollander, Skype’s attorney, told the court. Skype would “exit the market whilst we embark on a lengthy and costly process of developing an alternative form of software code.”
Click Here to Continue Reading