BT joins LookSmart in pounds 123m portal deal

BT expects to reap millions in advertising revenue through an internet portal venture with US online navigation company LookSmart.

BT expects to reap millions in advertising revenue through an

internet portal venture with US online navigation company LookSmart.



The pair are to form a pounds 123 million 50-50 joint venture which will

create portals in Europe and Asia Pacific. A spokesman said they would

have consistent branding but content would be tailored to each

market.



’Advertising will be one of the main revenue sources along with

e-commerce and licensing,’ said the spokesman. ’Internet usage is going

to soar worldwide and BT wants a significant international

presence.’



The deal, which does not cover the UK, is the biggest so far made by BT

Group Internet, a new division set up to boost the company’s involvement

in the web. The venture will also allow the company to move into

emerging areas such as wireless application protocol, the technology

enabling users to access the net through mobile phones and palmtops.



For San Francisco-based LookSmart, the deal means it will be able to

expand beyond its current core markets in the US and Australia. The

company has provided navigation products to leading online companies

such as The Microsoft Network, Excite@ Home and Alta Vista.



LookSmart chief executive Evan Thornley said the partnership established

’a new model that combines web navigation with access on a global

basis’.



BT anticipates that the level of internet use in Europe and Asia will

soon catch up with that in the US. It says 63 million people in the US

have access to the net - a 44 per cent share of the world market. Europe

has 41 million users, around 29 per cent, while Asia-Pacific has 10

million and a 7 per cent share. But BT expects Europe to have gained on

the US by 2003.