Microsoft’s purchase of Skype for $8.5 billion is a high premium to pay for a product/service that is falling behind its rivals. The purchase is a big move and many would argue that Microsoft is now in a position where it needs to make a big bold move. Let’s all recall how well it worked out for Ebay.
Actually, it worked out well for Ebay… when they sold it. Ebay retained about 1/3 of the company. The $8.5 billion dollar price puts the value of Ebay’s stake at approximately $2.95 billion. Ebay paid $3.1 billion for Skype in 2005. After a poor integration attempt, Ebay sold Skype for $1.9 billion to an investor group that included Andreesen Horowitz, Silver Lake, Index Ventures, and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (seriously). If you combine the amount received for the stake with the recent sale (assuming the deal closes), Ebay walks away with $4.85 billion. Let’s not forget the tax benefit received from the $1.4 billion dollar charge Ebay incurred in early 2007.
Rumor had it that Skype had some tire kickers buzzing around. The usual suspects (Google and Facebook) were said to be in the mix. Apparently the competition was in the $4-$5 billion dollar range. Once the Google deal fell apart (due, in part, to the ill fitting technology) Skype appeared to be headed toward an IPO. The final suitor (Microsoft) had to step and and was forced to a pay a premium for Skype’s massive user base. The user base is too large to ignore. Skype is the largest international calling service in the world and has approximately 600 million registered users. Skype’s 2010 revenue came in at about $860 million.
This deal really makes Google’s $50 million dollar acquisition of Grand Central look fantastic (June 2007).
How can you make money on this deal? Is it time to short MSFT? Hard to say, but a big acquisition can be a huge distraction. With the cloud taking over, perhaps it is time to play the MSFT short. I would expect that further changes are in the wings. The government considered breaking MSFT into parts back at the height of the antitrust furor. Now, Microsoft might just do the break up on its own. OS / Applications / Services.