This looks like it could get very interesting, very quickly. The online auction outfit, eBay, seems to be in the process of having something of a corporate clearance sale. There were stories circulating a couple of weeks back that Skype could be sold off, possibly back to the original owners, with anything up to a billion dollar discount off what it paid for the Internet telephony outfit just four years back. Now it appears that eBay will indeed bee disposing of Skype, but instead of selling it back to the original founders it looks like it will be spinning it off and out the door by way of an IPO sometime next year.
It has also been confirmed that another relatively recent acquisition, the social bookmarking service StumbleUpon, has already been sold back to the original founders. eBay paid $75 million in cash for StumbleUpon back in 2007, but there is no word as to the sale price as of yet. StumbleUpon co-founder Garrett Camp did make it clear, however, that "there were few long-term synergies between the two businesses" and it was "best for us to part ways and focus on our respective strengths" when talking about the purchase in a rather brief press release.
Now it seems that eBay is also spending money, as reports emerge of a $1.2 billion deal to purchase Korean online auction giant, Gmarket.
What is interesting about all of this is that it points towards that good old fashioned business notion of common sense, where a company concentrates on what it does best, the core business function, in order to succeed. After all, it was selling stuff via auction that got eBay into the position of being one of the biggest retail brands online. When it purchased PayPal people could see the sense in buying into a payments processing business, but when it bought a telephony business and a social bookmarking service plenty of people were left scratching their heads. Myself included.
But why now, why the sudden realisation that core focus is where eBay should be? Could it have something to do with the competition in the online retail sector? I am thinking of people such as Amazon which has just been named as the biggest online retailer in the US with an astonishing one third of the market by e-commerce transaction volume. eBay CEO John Donahoe remains bullish, saying "We will continue to be one of the winners in a changing e-commerce landscape. It is not a winner-take-all."