Skype to acquire group messaging service GroupMe

While Skype waits for its $8.5 billion acquisition by Microsoft to go through, it’s been indulging in a little shopping of its own.

It announced yesterday that it’s to take over GroupMe, which offers a mobile group messaging service that could help Skype rival Google+’s Huddle feature, Facebook messages or Apple’s iMessage.

GroupMe, founded only last year, allows users to make conference calls and free text messages with different circles of friends or colleagues, from a single contact to a broadcast over Twitter of Facebook.

Its app is free, and works across all platforms; the company says it currently handles about 100 million messages a month.

“The GroupMe team has created an incredibly sticky group messaging experience that works across mobile devices and platforms, making this a perfect addition to the voice, video and text products in the Skype family,” says Skype CEO Tony Bates.

“This latest acquisition, coupled with our acquisition of Qik earlier this year, augments our role as an innovator in driving unique mobile user experiences,” he adds.

The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, although analysts suggest it’s somewhere in the $50 to $80 million range. GroupMe’s 20 employees will join Skype, but remain in their New York office; the company’s app will stay separate from Skype for the time being, although the two will be integrated at some point in future.

Microsoft announced in May that it was to buy Skype. The deal’s been approved by the US, but hasn’t yet received the go-ahead from international regulators.