France Telecom buys online bookseller

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PARIS--France Telecom has added a new element to its growinge-commerce and multi-media portfolio, acquiring 100% of French Internet bookseller Alapage.com.

France Telecom did not divulge the purchase price, rumored to be in the$40 million to $65 million range. The bookseller says it will benefit froman increased presence in the state-controlled former monopoly's French-language portal site (www.voila.fr), which generates 5.5 million pages viewed daily in France.

Founded in 1987 to sell books over Minitel, France's national predecessor to the Internet, Alapage.com is now one of the leading e-commerce sites forFrench-language content. The site logs more than 600,000hits and 14,000 items ordered per month.

Alapage.com officials estimate 1999 sales will top $3.5 million and predict sales in 2000 will pass the $15 million mark. The company offers 700,000 book, CD, CD-ROM and video titles.

France Telecom operates Wanadoo, one of the country's largest Internet service providers, with 830,000 subscribers. It has sought to expand itsInternet portfolio into e-commerce for the past two years. The site has invested in start-up sites selling wine, discount travel and entertainment,through its venture capital unit Innovacom France Telecom.

The Alapage.com buy-out comes on the heels of other developments in France's online bookstore sector, including the acquisition last May by top retailer FNAC of Alibabook, and a new $650,000 press campaign designed by Euro RSCG BETC for Books On-line (www.bol.fr), the online bookseller co-owned by France's Havas and Germany's Bertelsmann.

Copyright September 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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