Skype CEO Continues To See Growth In Middle East; Bets Big On Asia

By P.R. Venkat and Costas Paris
15 June 2010


SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)–Internet calling service Skype Ltd. Tuesday said that it continues to see growth opportunities in the Middle East despite being banned in parts of the area and is optimistic about the company’s growth potential in Asia.

“There are a couple of governments that officially banned Skype…but what we see in most of the developing world (is that) they are embracing Skype,” Chief Executive Officer Josh Silverman told Dow Jones Newswires.

Silverman is in Singapore to attend the CommunicAsia Conference that began Tuesday.

“I would say, we see growth in the Middle East in general,” Silverman said without getting into details on the ban of the service in the United Arab Emirates.

Currently, Skype cannot be downloaded in Oman, the UAE and Kuwait, although the software can be used if it is previously installed on a computer. The UAE Telecommunication Regulatory Authority said in March that Skype will be allowed to offer a greater range of services in the country if they are partnered with existing licensed telecom operators.

Silverman said that Skype sees strong growth potential in the Asia Pacific as the region has become globally connected due to an increasing number of expatriates and growing international trade.

“Special to Asia is that many people are having their first internet experience on a smart phone. So a big focus of ours is for them to have a really compelling experience,” Silverman said.

Skype has over 500 million registered users around the world and is adding 300,000 users a day. The company aspires to have 100 million personal computers shipped with Skype preloaded in 2011. Silverman declined to give growth projections by region.

Silverman said that his company was keen to offer Skype to BlackBerry and other mobile platforms in Asia. In February, Verizon Wireless announced that it was offering the Skype application on smartphones in the U.S.

On China, Silverman said that Skype’s local partner Tomonline was helping it comply with government regulations and that there was demand from Chinese making cross-border calls.

“We think being part of a global conversation is very important for Chinese citizens, entrepreneurs and Chinese families,” Silverman said.

He would not comment on whether his company plans a listing, saying only that Skype is profitable and has enough money for acquisitions “if it makes sense.”

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