Italian portal strikes deal with

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ROME--Kataweb is the first Italian portal to form a joint venture with New York-based online currency company

Surfers can collect units of Beenz currency by visiting a site and usethem to make online purchases at participating sites anywhere in the world.

The joint venture gives access to customers on Kataweb's 50 Web sites, which include the site for the national daily newspaper La Repubblica, the Italian Web page for and several smaller magazines, radio stations and regional Italian newspapers. Kataweb is owned by Gruppo Espresso, which also owns La Repubblica. Billionaire financier Carlo de Benedetti controls the company.

A statement from Kataweb said the company hoped the use of the currency from would help it attract more traffic.

Founded a year ago, has nearly one million account holders.

Copyright March 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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