Italy's B2B industry booms

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ROME -- Almost two years after the business-to-business boom in the U.S., business-related Internet use has become the fastest growing part of Italy's cyber economy, according to a new report. The report, sponsored by retailers association Confcommercio, says Italy is in the midst of a boom in business-to-business use, best known as B2B. With the sector doubling every eight months, the report shows that as of mid-February, around one in 10 Italian businesses -- a total of half a million companies -- has its own Web site, and about one in three has Internet access. Three years ago, only around 1% of Italian companies operated Web sites, and around one in 20 companies had Internet access.

"This surge in business-related Internet activity is no real surprise, since Italy has always trailed the U.S. and much of Western Europe with Internet trends," says Giacomo Fazio, a social commentator who specializes in technology-related issues. "What is interesting is that it is progressively trailing by smaller and smaller margins."

The report was in line with research released in recent weeks showing that e-commerce in Italy is growing, but at a slower rate. But the report said that isn't stopping B2B ventures - including inventory tracking, equipment sales and the selling of excess production -- from growing by leaps and bounds.

"E-commerce is hampered by a number of uniquely Italian problems," Mr. Fazio says. "But B2B ventures can thrive because they don't depend on things like credit card payments or fast delivery of products via the postal service, [aspects that] hurt e-commerce."

Copyright March 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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