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Skype Trial Could Lower IPO Price

EBay's plans to take Skype public are being threatened by a dispute with the company's cofounders, who still own a piece of the software used by the voice-over Internet protocol provider, Bloomberg reports. The company told a London court in April that it may have to suspend its service if the fight is not resolved. Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, who left the company after eBay acquired it in 2005, have accused the online auctioneer of breaching a licensing deal, and are threatening to pull the technology. EBay in turn is suing the founders in London to prevent the world's largest provider of international calls from suspending its service.

Legal experts warn that if the lawsuit goes unresolved, it could cut the price that eBay would get from a Skype IPO. "The market hates uncertainty because you can't price around it," said Randolf Katz, a lawyer at Baker Hostetler, who advises technology companies on corporate finance and IPOs. "The lawsuit is out there, and it will be factored into the price."

For eBay CEO John Donahoe, it's a race against time. Skype recently lost a bit to accelerate the trial, meaning that the case will likely go to court in the first three months of 2010. EBay, meanwhile, wants the IPO to happen in the first half of next year. If Zennstrom and Friis win, the effect would be "devastating," Charles Hollander, Skype's attorney, told the court. Skype would be forced to "exit the market whilst we embark on a lengthy and costly process of developing an alternative form of software code.

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