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Carpetbaggers expected to sign up in droves

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A group of London financiers has developed a risk-free way of cashing-in on the success of Net shares by promising to give its users a stake in its ISP when it starts operating next month. Themutual.net is the UK's newest subscription-free ISP and plans to "seize the lion's share of the ISP market, toppling giants like Dixon's Freeserve". The ISP is offering 50 per cent of themutual.net to its customers by issuing 2.1 billion units, each convertible to a share, on a first-come-first-served basis. Cheshire-based Telinco will provide the network infrastructure for the service. Customers will be able to realise the value of their equity if the company is sold or floated in the future. With its Net users doubling up as shareholders, the brains behind this new service believe it will help create a set of loyal users that will help build the ISP into a powerful brand. It's a new spin to an old idea but it does leave themutual.net open to carpetbaggers who may just register their interest in the hope of a future pay out. Clive Poulton-Sinclair, executive chairman of the themutual.net, said: "We've borrowed the age-old concept of a co-operative and applied it to the very latest technology business. "It is a simple formula: our customers help us make money and we help them do the same." The company aims to recruit 100,000 customers by the time it launches in July and is not shy about it prospects. "We are going to turn the industry on its head," said City veteran Poulton-Sinclair. "Less than a year ago, people were paying ISPs around £15 a month just to buy a service. "We charge nothing and let our people share in our success. It is a partnership that creates value," he said. Today's announcement by themutual.net coincides with the launch of MSN's new subscription-free service. ®

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