Monday, June 8, 1998 Published at 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
WH Smith logs on to £9m internet book deal
WH Smith has moved to fend off the threat from on-line retailing
High street bookseller WH Smith has moved to fend off the threat from on-line retailing by snapping up Europe's biggest internet book retailer.
WH Smith is paying £9.4m for bookshop.co.uk, parent company of The Internet Bookshop, which offers 1.4m books for sale to customers on the Internet across the world.
And it comes just weeks after WH Smith's £68m purchase of the high street stores of rival John Menzies and the £300m sale of specialist bookshop arm Waterstone's to a consortium including EMI and Mr Waterstone, the chain's founder.
Unveiling The Internet Bookshop deal, WH Smith chief executive Richard Handover said: "The electronic commerce market is currently relatively small, but we expect it to develop significantly over the next few years.
"The WH Smith brand had good potential to trade competitively in this market, particularly as the customer base broadens."
Bookshop.co.uk chairman Simon Preston said: "The offer by WH Smith is an attractive one for our shareholders, unlocking the value of bookshop.co.uk."
Its catalogue lists 1.4m books, 50,000 CDs, videos and computer games and last September it added 400,000 US titles to its database.
Bookshop.co.uk was formed in 1992 by Darryl Mattocks as an information technology consultancy and it began retailing on the Internet in 1994.
Three years later its shares were listed on the Ofex market for small, growing companies.
WH Smith said the on-line market for books was estimated at around £200m, expected to grow to £800m by the year 2000.