German Bank to Sell Office Supplies Online

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FRANKFURT - Dresdner Bank, one of Germany's largest financial institutions, launched an office supplies Web site last month for small and medium-size firms.

Through, companies can buy furniture, office supplies and technology for roughly 10 percent less than that offered in retail stores, according to Wolfgang Dambman, the bank's manager for business-to-business sales.

"We'll offer everything from pencils to computers," Dambman said of the 10,000 items he will put on the site. And he expects to attract 10,000 customers before the year is out.

He is looking for a monthly sales volume of 3 million Deutsche marks, or $1.4 million, and expects to be profitable in eight months. At the end of 2001, Dresdner expects to spin off the unit with an initial public offering.

Although the venture is small, German analysts said, it typifies the rush of financial institutions to build profitable Web niches as quickly as possible and build ramparts against upheavals shaking the banking business.

German banks have been exploring mergers and acquisitions for months with mixed results. One reason for Dresdner Bank's Internet expansion is the collapse in April of a planned merger with Deutsche Bank, Germany's largest.

Nor are banks alone in their rush to the Internet. Although most German managers are still reluctant to make the jump into cyberspace, a recent survey by the influential HandelSblatt showed that 71 percent believe they will have to do so.

The majority of managers said they were convinced that the Internet would undergo a similar development in Germany as it has in the United States, even though more than 90 percent believe they are two to three years behind the Americans.
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