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Shakedown coming in the UK Net market

Could Freeserve be the target of an acquisition set to rock the industry?

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Comment Shares in Dixons Group continued their downward trend yesterday, returning the company to the same level it was more than three months ago. Its share price opened in London at £11.04 but fell back to £10.94 with just an hour to go until the Stock Exchange closed for business. In April, it climbed to more that £15 a share. So how does this affect Dixons' plans to sell off part of its Net company? The honest answer is, no one really knows. But it does throw up an interesting alternative. Much of the attention so far has been about Freeserve flogging lots of shares to those people and institutions eager for a slice of Net investment pie. But what if someone came along with a large wad and wanted to buy the whole shooting match? A crazy idea -- surely. Well maybe, especially if Freeserve were to be valued at the £4 billion, as some people have discussed. But if it's nearer £100 million, it may not be such a bad buy. Freeserve has almost 1.5 million punters, has its own management team in place and its own brand, making it distinct from Dixons. Such a ready-made business would be ideal for anyone looking to enter the Net market. More likely, it would give a major boost to any of the existing service providers looking to take a massive lead in the UK. Realistically, there's only a handful of ISPs that could afford to buy Freeserve. But if someone did come along and buy Freeserve lock, stock and barrel it would certainly compete with BTInternet's decision to offer toll-free access to the Net as the top story of the year. ®

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