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The NY Times in an article this morning confirms the eBay-Skype rumor. The deal is worth US$2.6 billion in cash and stock. Much of it seems to be about competition and not wanting to get left behind on VoIP.

From the press release:

Communications is at the heart of ecommerce and community," said Meg Whitman, President and Chief Executive Officer of eBay. "By combining the two leading ecommerce franchises, eBay and PayPal, with the leader in Internet voice communications, we will create an extraordinarily powerful environment for business on the Net.

More careful thinking is required to "grok" all the implications. But the quick response is that eBay can offer a range of services to merchants and consumers through VoIP. These may include call connection, PPCall, etc.

eBay is growing much faster internationally than in the U.S. and Skype has a large global footprint (think also about eBay-owned Kijiji [classifieds + voice]):

"One of the fastest growing companies on the Internet, Skype already has 54 million members in 225 countries and territories. Skype is currently adding approximately 150,000 users a day and has created a thriving ecosystem of products, services, developers, and affiliates. Skype is considered the market leader in virtually all countries in which it does business. In North America alone, Skype has more users and serves more voice minutes than any other Internet voice communications provider."

In addition to growing in new directions, Skype functionality will allow eBay to give real-time calling options to its merchants and the shopper-users of eBay. This broadens the potential merchant base that can use eBay and it also "closes the loop" by adding an "offline" component to the e-commerce powerhouse. (Well over 95% of transactions happen offline.)

More thoughts later.

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Related:

Financial Times coverage

Internet Stock Blog round-up of pre-acquisition analysis. Argument that eBay paid too much for the closed VoIP network

Om Malik's thoughts

China Telecom seeking to block Skype to protect revenues

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