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Tuesday, 11 January, 2000, 20:08 GMT
Online retailer in 200m deal

Blackstar's internet sales have doubled month by month Blackstar's sales doubled month by month

A Belfast-based internet company is to be floated on the stock exchange this year in a deal likely to value the firm at up to 200m.

The deal will bring a major financial windfall for the founders and the staff of Blackstar, which sells videos on-line.

Jeremy Glover and Daryl Collins formed Blackstar two years ago and already the company has established itself as one of the UK on-line retailers with the greatest potential.

There's a lot of hype surrounding the Internet. There's obviously also a massive opportunity.
BBC NI Business Editor James Kerr
From its base on the Ravenhill Road in Belfast the firm sells videos and DVD's online to a worldwide customer base.

In the run-up to Christmas the company doubled its sales every month, and expects that trend to continue rising this year as well.

It is understood that the Blackstar is engaged in talks with bankers to sell a stake of the company on the stock market.

Blackstar is the first Northern Ireland company likely to cash in on the e-commerce revolution.

In recent months similar companies like the American video, music and book seller have achieved astonishing stock-market valuations - despite having never made a profit.

Opportunities for success

Meanwhile, for another Northern Ireland company, other peoples Internet ideas have become their opportunities for success.

Lution, a firm which is based outside east Belfast, aims to help get good e-commerce proposals get up and running. Then they will take a stake in the newly created company.

Brendan Monaghan: Niche in market
Staff numbers are now around 50 but by the end of the year it is more likely to be 200.

Brendan Monaghan, Lution Chief Executive, said there were a lot of funds available in the marketplace to finance such ideas.

"But the people that have those ideas are struggling to put together the teams of people and the business plans that would attract those funds," he said. "That's where we believe there's a bit of a niche."

BBC NI Business Editor James Kerr said: "There's a lot of hype surrounding the Internet.

"There's obviously also a massive opportunity. The success of Blackstar has proved what's possible - in the months to come it seems many other entrepreneurs will follow their lead."

The University of Ulster has recently launched a new institute dealing solely with e-commerce, and in recent weeks government agencies in the province have begun to promote the Internet as a source of new business.
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See also:
11 Jan 00 |  Business
BT makes 1.5bn entry into Ireland
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10 Jan 00 |  Education
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