Skype, the world's biggest communications service provider measured by minutes of calls, is to raise an estimated $100m through a listing on the Nasdaq exchange.
It announced on Monday that it had filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed initial public offering of its ordinary shares. The number of shares to be offered and the price range were not disclosed.
Skype allows users access to encrypted voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology so that they can make calls for free anywhere there is an internet connection. Some 124 million users spent 95 billion minutes calling friends, family and acquaintances, Skype said. Some 40% of its calls were video.
Skype has been a controversial company since its inception. It was founded in 2003 by Scandinavians entrepreneurs Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis using software developed by the file-sharing network KaZaa.
Online shopping site eBay bought Skype in 2005 for $2.5bn, later selling it back to a group of investors that included Netscape founder Marc Andreesen for $1.9bn in 2009. Zennström and Friis joined the group after they claimed Skype was using proprietary technology they still owned.
The difficulties experienced by government signals intelligence agents in reading VoIP traffic, and Skype in particular, were cited as a reason for the UK government's plans to introduce a £12bn Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP).
Some believe that Skype has made a 'backdoor' available to security agencies so that they can monitor the traffic of 'people of interest'.
Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley will coordinate the listing. These three plus BofA Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital, Citigroup Global Markets, Credit Suisse Securities (USA) and Deutsche Bank Securities will help to place the shares.