San Jose, Calif. -- eBay late Tuesday announced plans to spin off its Skype Internet telephone unit through an initial public offering (IPO) expected to take place in the first half of next year. The San Jose-based online auction giant said that timing of the IPO will be based on market conditions. "It's clear that Skype has limited synergies with eBay and PayPal," said John Donahoe, the president and CEO of eBay. "We believe operating Skype as a stand-alone publicly traded company is the best path for maximizing its potential." The news comes after reports surfaced that Skype co-founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis had approached several private equity firms about trying to repurchase the company, which they sold to eBay for $2.6 billion four years ago. Skype now counts 405 million registered users of its service, which permits low-cost, Internet-based phone calls, video calls and chat.