Mergers between big internet companies are unlikely in the short term because of difficulties combining brands, says Meg Whitman, Ebay chief executive.

However, online conglomerates operating under different brand names could eventually emerge, she said.

Ms Whitman said Ebay, whose purchase of Skype was the biggest internet deal last year, would continue to look at acquisitions, though mainly of smaller technology companies.

“I think multi-brand, full-service internet companies are an opportunity,” she told the Financial Times.

Ms Whitman’s comments come at a time of heightened speculation on Wall Street about the possibility of mergers between the internet giants.

The rise of Google, along with Microsoft’s renewed efforts to become a more significant force online, has prompted all the big internet companies to reconsider their strategies.

Ebay last month announced an alliance with Yahoo in the US, though at the time a senior executive said the two sides had not discussed deeper links than the ones agreed upon.

The success of Yahoo Japan, that country’s dominant internet services company, points to the potential market power from combining portal, e-commerce, broadband and search activities, Ms Whitman said.

“[However] I think that game has largely played out in most markets,” she said.

“I think it would be a very difficult challenge today to say that you want that integrated model in virtually any country because you’ve already got brands that stand for those things.”

Ebay has turned to a multi-branded strategy with its PayPal and Skype units already the largest payments and voice communications businesses on the internet.

“We’re pretty focused now on sort of maximising the three business that we have,” Ms Whitman said.

Asked whether external factors, such as Microsoft’s ambition to become a bigger player online, could destabilise the existing industry structure and lead to mergers, she said: “It can, but I think in the near-term I see at least the major internet players kind of on their own path.

“I think, you know, each of the big internet companies now are quite focused on a strategy that’s quite differentiated.

“Yes, there are overlaps and competition, but I think each of these major internet companies feels quite strongly about where they’re headed.”

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