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E*Trade hits UK with cut-throat pricing

Claims 150,000 Brits will be dealing on-line by 2001

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On-line share dealer E*Trade launched in the UK today amid claims that up to 150,000 Britons will be managing their portfolios on the Web by the end of next year. It marked its debut with an aggressive pricing strategy, promising no commission fee higher than £24.95, and demonstrations of a fast execution system that completes transactions in six seconds or less. Julian Costley, chief executive, sought to down play expectations, saying he expected to be one of "top four or five in Britain" and was aiming for a 60 per cent plus market share. E*Trade UK has a large potential customer base. One of its co-owners, Electronic Share Information - a first generation Internet share information service with limited dealing facilities - has 250,000 registered users. Its other major owner is the number one US online brokerage E*Trade. Punters have to invest a minimum of just £1,000 and have access to portfolio management spreadsheets, charts and news. Currently only shares traded on the London Stock Exchange are available although foreign dealing from the site is planned. E*Trade conducted all its IT development in-house, customising software that allows paperless processing supplied by UK financial systems specialist Consort. Its chief rival is UK market leader Charles Schwab, which has over 15,000 customers on-line. But the market is crowding fast, exemplified by Halifax bank's announcement on Tuesday that it too would launch a similar service. ®

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