Online auction site EBay Inc. has agreed to acquire Internet telephony company Skype Technologies SA for US$2.6 billion, the companies announced Monday.

The deal will help eBay move into new business areas while allowing Skype to expand the customer base for its VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) services, the companies said.

For instance, in addition to its current transaction-based fees, eBay could allow deals to be monetized on a pay-per-call basis through Skype. And for its part, Skype could make it much easier for customers to pay for its fee-based services through PayPal Inc., the online payment service owned by eBay.

Skype currently has 54 million members in 225 countries and territories and is adding 150,000 new users each day.

The company was established around two years ago by Scandinavians Niklas Zennstr