Concurrent deals last week by Excite@Home added broad
capability for the Internet portal and service provider to sell electronic-commerce
solutions for small businesses.
The company agreed to fork over about $425 million in stock
to buy iMALL Inc., which provides turnkey e-commerce solutions.
It also announced a strategic alliance with payment and
transaction-services giant First Data Merchant Services Corp. - which owns 11 percent of
iMALL - that will package e-commerce capabilities, leveraging the exposure of the
The companies want to offer those functions - which include
the creation of electronic storefronts complete with integrated payment and back-end
banking services - to third parties that offer e-commerce support services and merchants
that want to create an online retail presence.
"The combined solution gives us critical mass to bring
together online buyers and sellers with new services for our business-to-business efforts,
benefiting our @Work division, and business-to-consumer transactions," Excite@Home
president George Bell said.
Two of the biggest assets the companies will contribute to
the venture are their customer lists.
Excite@Home boasts 22 million visitors to its Web locations
each month, while First Data processes and settles some 5 billion customer transactions
per year, including credit- and debit-card buys,. It also has merchant partners
representing some 2 million physical locations.
The companies plan a business-to-business offering aimed at
third-party providers of e-commerce services, marketed through Excite@Home's
enterprise-oriented @Work unit.
The business-to-consumer offering will use the Excite
portal as the platform for creating, supporting and operating electronic storefronts in a
matter of hours, offering retailers a package of e-commerce tools such as Web site design,
online shopping carts, payment processing and calculating and promotional opportunities.
"Offering a simple turnkey solution is critical to
getting stores online, and it is the foundation of our business strategy," iMALL CEO
Richard Rosenblatt said.
The company already counts itself as a leading purveyor of
both online-retailing services and storefronts, operated through its imall.com and
stuff.com Internet portals. They offer searchable product and service databases with links
to buy online eitherthrough iMALL or to the actual merchants' sites.
The stuff.com site claims listings for more than 3 million