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Associated Newspapers takes 50% share in free ISP

Buys into Arcadia's Zoom Net access/e-commerce offshoot

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Associated Newspapers, publisher of UK tabloid the Daily Mail and local paper the London Evening Standard, today bought a half share in up-and-coming free ISP Zoom from its owner, clothing retail giant Arcadia. Arcadia owns High Street emporia TopShop, Principles and Burton. The deal values Zoom at £30 million -- rival free ISP Freeserve, which floated today, is said to be worth up to £2 billion. Arcadia's plan for the ISP centres on its role as an e-commerce facilitator, pulling in punters using the lure of free Net access in the hope of persuading them to spend money on wares offered by the online branches of Arcadia's stores. The deal with Associated brings in vital access to potential customers through the companies' papers -- they have a claimed combined readership of 13.5 million. In return, they get a service that will allow them to compete with rival services from The Sun and the Mirror. Arcadia itself brings a database of five million storecard holders to the table. ®

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