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Skype Goes on the Block

12:50 PM -- I always thought the connection of Skype to eBay Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY) -- the theory that buyers and sellers would chat each other up on Skype to enhance the deal "experience" -- was weak at best. But with Skype making $550 million for eBay last year, I was willing to believe that eBay was willing to put up with the subsidiary.

That's what CEO John Donahoe was telling a Silicon Valley audience two months ago. (See eBay Still Likes Skype.) Based on news reports from the last few days, though, it looks more like he was pumping up the buzz to get a buyer interested.

It was announced yesterday that eBay sold StumbleUpon back to its founders for the telling "undisclosed sum," after buying the company for $75 million two years ago. And The Wall Street Journal quoted eBay CEO John Donahoe saying the company doesn't want to "force synergies where they don't exist."

That's a telling quote, considering everyone's abuzz about Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis wanting the company back. Just before Easter weekend, The New York Times was writing about a potential $2 billion deal that had the founders teaming up with private equity firms and eBay itself, which reportedly would put up a loan to help finance the sale.

eBay continues to insist Skype is doing well, saying the division is eyeing $1 billion in revenues by 2011. (See Skype Targets $1B Revenues.) And of course, Skype has racked up the big-name mobile phones as partners, although the wireless carriers might not be so thrilled about it. (See Skype Lands on iPhone, Blackberries to Get Skype, Skype Goes Android, Skype Ist Verboten!, and US Carriers Still Lukewarm on Skype.)

None of this seems to be helping eBay's auction business, though. Maybe they'll find a way to glom Skype onto Joost instead.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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