Excite@Home Continues Investment Spree

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Excite@Home continued a spate of investments in varied Web players, announcing minority stakes totaling more than $2.5 million in two companies this week.


The Net portal and marketing giant put $2.5 million into E-Stamp Corp., an Internet postage company, and invested an undisclosed amount in Rosenbluth Interactive, an entity formed as part of travel company Rosenbluth International's recently announced purchase of Biztravel.com.


The investments follow a $15 million stake Excite@Home, Redwood City, CA, made in sports and entertainment ticket vendor Tickets.com last month. If that deal receives regulatory approval, Excite@Home said it will inject a further $40 million into the company.


The ongoing spending spree, made possible by the combined cash assets of recently merged Excite Inc. and At Home Corp., fits with the company's strategy to gain part ownership of firms it sees as leaders in their respective business categories, and with which it has penned distribution or technology agreements, said spokesperson Melissa Walia.


"To really partner with these strategic leaders, we do a content distribution deal or a technology deal, and in addition to that, we'll do some kind of minority equity investment in the company," Walia said.


The company wants to extend its investments and spur faster growth in the online categories it sees as most likely to be successful going forward, she said.


Excite@Home also talked up four other recent investments: $25 million in healthcare site WebMD Inc., $7 million into online promotions firm Webstakes.com, $6 million in voice technology concern General Magic and $5 million digital sports venue Quokka.com.


Though Excite@Home touted the latter four investments in a press statement last week, the timing of those transactions was not clear. Webstakes already listed At Home Corp. as an 11 percent holder when it filed to go public with the Securities & Exchange Commission in June, and General Magic publicly announced the $6 million it received from Excite@Home back in June as well.


Also unclear was the financial health of some of the "strategic leaders" - General Magic, for example, saw its annual revenue skydive to $2.3 million in 1998 from $14.2 million in 1995.


Excite@Home uses General Magic technology in its voicemail product and its broadband and narrowband distribution of Quokka sporting events. Webstakes' online sweepstakes are a "key component" in Excite@Home's efforts to build a database of consumer data and opt-in e-mails, the company said. Webstakes also struck a deal earlier this year to run banner ads on Excite@Home.


The company did not reveal what portion of the six Net companies it now owns.
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