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Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 14:32 GMT

Business: The Company File

Excite goes 50-50 with BT

BT's Swingewood (left) get's a piece of Excite from Redding

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall
Britain is finally embracing the American portal model for making money on the Internet, with British Telecom taking a 50% stake on Wednesday in Excite UK

Interview with BT's John Swingewood and Excite's Rick Redding
It is the first time a UK company has formed such a close relationship with a US portal. BT is investing $10m in the $20m subsidiary of Excite Inc.

Portals have been all the rage this year in the United States. Their services, ranging from free e-mail to news, online shopping and search engines, are aimed at retaining visitors to their Websites and attracting advertising by acting as one-stop shops.

BT sees e-commerce advantages

BT sees the deal as developing its presence in Internet advertising and as a major vehicle for pushing electronic commerce and its involvement in transactions . Excite will be able to take advantage of the better-known BT brand in the UK, the influx of cash and the new customers BT will drive to it as an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

As well as the joint venture, the two companies also announced the launch of Excite Click, a version of BT Click + where computer users can get online by simply making a local call charged at 1p a minute above the standard rate, the charges showing up on their phone bill. Users of Excite Click will be automatically taken to the site.

BT's online portfolio now includes the ISP's BT Internet and BT Click +, the Wireplay gaming service, Talk21 e-mail, Excite and the online service provider Line One. The grouping gives it an aggregate of around 50 million page impressions a month

More deals expected

John Swingewood, BT Internet and Multimedia director, said the similarities between the Excite and Line One content services did not mean BT would soon be abandoning Line One.

"We see that Line One and this Excite joint venture are very complementary and you'll see us announce very shortly a number of commercial deals between those two companies," he told News Online.

"We are going to encourage and push hard in the e-commerce area, we see that's where the real growth's going to occur over the next 18 months.

"We've got our established customer base, we've already announced digital certificates for a lot of our customers, so bringing some of our authentication and e-commerce applications to Excite, that will form part of the relationship."

Excite can build brand in UK

"We think that slipstreaming the BT brand here in the UK will propel the UK Excite service to be Number One in the market," said Rick Redding, Excite Vice President of International Business Development.

Commenting on Tuesday's acquisition of Netscape by America Online, he said: "Excite has various deep and strong relations with Netscape and AOL. AOL own approximately 10 per cent of Excite so we see that [the deal] as a big positive."

Excite has already established joint ventures for its operations in Italy, Japan and Australia. It has 13 million registered users worldwide and is the fastest-growing portal site, according to Media Metrix.

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