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Sunday, September 5, 1999 Published at 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK

Business: The Company File's $2bn float plan aims to be the cheapest online retailer, one of Amazon's main online superstore rivals in the US, is reported to be planning a £1.25bn flotation ($2bn) in New York this autumn.

But before that move the company is reported to be in talks about expansion into the UK market backed by funds from e-partners, the new media venture capital firm backed by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

[ image: Rupert Murdoch is increasing his Internet interests]
Rupert Murdoch is increasing his Internet interests
Both plans are reported in the UK's Sunday Times newspaper, which is owned by News Corp.

The paper says that the UK assault would take the form of a joint venture with Japanese investment company Softbank and with e-partners, which is run by former BSkyB chief Mark Booth.

The Japanese investment company provided early- stage capital for net businesses such as Yahoo.

In July, Booth and his opposite number at Softbank, Masayoshi Son, formed e-ventures, a fund with $50m., was founded by Scott Blum in Nov 1996, and began as a specialist net seller of computer hardware and software.

It now sells books, videos, music, computer games and airline tickets.

Amazon strength

It offers customers a refund if they find their purchases available elsewhere on the net for lower prices within seven days.

Sales are thought to be running at more than $500m a year.

Amazon already has a considerable operation in the UK, but the Sunday Times reports that aims to undercut its more established rival's prices.

Amazon's market value has increased by more than 50 times since 1997, with its current valuation standing at £13bn.

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