UPDATE: QXL-Ricardo to Challenge EBay

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EBay's position as one of Europe's leading online auction houses is under challenge from last month's QXL-Ricardo merger, which created Europe's largest auctioneer with 1.3 million registered users.


QXL, a British online auction house, was founded in 1997, Ricardo a year later. QXL will take majority control in the new company that will be known as QXLRicardo. QXL also bought Bidlet, a Swedish house, earlier this year.


The new company will be active in 12 European countries -- QXL already operates Web sites in nine languages -- with the three components keeping their brands on their home markets: QXL in the United Kingdom, Ricardo in Germany and Bidlet in Scandinavia.


Neither company is in the black yet. In January, Ricardo's management predicted a 1999/2000 turnover of 40 million Deutsche marks, or just under $20 million, and losses of DM 30 million, or about $14 million. Third-quarter QXL losses totaled roughly 11 million pounds, or $17 million.


The new company will be headquartered in London and plans initial public offerings for Nasdaq and on the London exchange. Ricardo will leave Frankfurt's new exchange after the merger is completed but may return at a later date.


The move is the latest in a series of consolidations and acquisitions in Europe's cyberspace auction business.


E-Hammer, a German auction house founded in February, is already in merger talks. "I think we'll stay independent for about another year," said CEO Mathias Seemann. E-Hammer is number three on the German market, behind eBay and QXLRicardo.


EBay started the current round of acquisitions last year when it bought Alando, a leading German auctioneer. Andsold.de, a Bertelsmann subsidiary, merged last February with Versteigern.de.


Andsold CEO Harald Koenig confirmed that "everybody in this business is speaking to everybody else."
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