Swisscom to spin off Internet unit in 2000

Switzerland’s biggest telecommunications group Swisscom said on Friday it planned to spin off a minority stake in its Blue Window Internet business in the first half of next year.

This content was published on December 17, 1999 minutes

Switzerland’s biggest telecommunications group Swisscom said on Friday it planned to spin off a minority stake in its Blue Window Internet business in the first half of next year.

It said it would convert the Internet service into a stock company in order to increase the flexibility of the unit for partnerships and to encourage further growth.

“The Swisscom board of directors has given the go-ahead for privatisation and the resumption of talks with the media company TA-Media,” a company statement said.

“The aim of the partnership is to consolidate the market position of Blue Window in the Swiss market,” it added.

TA-Media is the publisher of the Tages-Anzeiger daily and SonntagsAnzeiger Sunday paper as well as weeklies such as Facts and Cash. The group is also a partner in the TV3 commercial television station which started this year.

Swisscom said earlier that, following a spin off, TA-Media might be interested in a new partnership focussing on online real estate and job advertising.

Outgoing Swisscom chief executive Tony Reis announced in early November that the company was considering a float of Blue Window, prompting a one-day four percent gain in Swisscom shares.

In a surprise announcement on Thursday, Reis said he would resign at the end of this year, handing the reins of the company to Swiss compatriot Jens Alder.

Alder said one of his top priorities was “getting a good headstart in e-commerce.”

Swisscom said the Swiss Internet market would continue to grow strongly in the next few years with an increasing importance of e-commerce.

“Blue Window will benefit from this thanks to its leading position in the field of Internet access and portals. The Blue Window aims to increase the topicality and range of its offer and to grow faster than the competition,” Swisscom said.

It said the Blue Window division had 200 staff. It has over 300,000 access customers and 130,000 BlueMail customers. Blue Window is available in a free basic version as well as a premium paying service.

Based on the value per subscriber of recent international Internet IPOs, Blue Window could be worth some SFr2 billion ($1.27 billion) if floated.

Started three years ago, Blue Window has a market share of one-third, making it the leading provider in Switzerland ahead of SwissOnline of cable television group Cablecom and MSN of Microsoft Corp.

Swisscom, Siemens AG and Veba AG last week agreed to sell their combined 96 percent stake in Cablecom to NTL for SFr5.8 billion ($3.68 billion).

TA-Media has a 20 percent stake in the popular portal Swissclick, where users can search for jobs, home and other offers. Swissclick combines the classified advertisements from the Tages-Anzeiger, the Basler Zeitung and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

TA-Media has announced it is leaving Swissclick to set up its own WinnerMarket portal. TA-Media is a private company.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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