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Skype COO bullish on future customer growth

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CIOL Bureau
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HANOVER, GERMANY: Internet calling company Skype is confident of maintaining its growth in customer numbers of about 30-35 million per quarter for some time to come, its chief operating officer told Reuters on Tuesday.

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"We've added 30-35 million new customers per quarter historically, and we don't expect this trend to slow in the near future. We're just at the beginning," Scott Durchslag said in an interview at the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover.

Skype, which was acquired by eBay in 2005, reported more than $550 million in sales for 2008, with $145 million in the fourth quarter, up 26 percent on a year ago

By the end of 2008, the company had 405 million customers, up 47 percent in a year.

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Durchslag said the telecommunication industry had been affected by the global economic crisis but not as much as other industries.

"The underlying need to communicate is pretty much intact."

German telecom giant Deutsche Telekom and Spain's Telefonica both posted better-than-expected results last week, and Telefonica even raised its dividend by 15 percent.

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Other industries, most notably carmakers and automotive suppliers, have been dealt a blow by the global economic crisis that has thrown some of the world's biggest economies, including Germany and the United States, into recession.

"When people come under cost pressure, as is the case now, Skype offers an effective way to save money," Durchslag said.

"We see this crisis as an opportunity for customers and businesses to make choices to save money without sacrificing quality," he said, adding that Skype was optimistic for 2010.

"We see huge opportunities through our cooperation with Nokia, which enables us to tap markets in Asia, hopefully including retail markets such as China, India, Thailand and Pakistan."

In February Skype secured a deal with Nokia under which the world's biggest phone maker will preload Skype software into some of its new smartphones.

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