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Excite to exit UK by year end

Excite Europe MD denies report

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Update Excite@home has denied that it is to close its UK portal operation at the end of the year signalling its retreat from Europe.

Yesterday, Excite announced it was pulling out of Europe except in the UK and Italy - where it has partnerships with BT and Tiscali respectively - with the loss of 85 jobs.

The Register understands that as many of half of the jobs have been lost in the UK, which operates many of Excite's country sites remotely.

However, insiders claim the only reason Excite didn't pull the plug on the UK operation was because of outstanding contract agreements with BT.

El Reg understands that if Excite had pulled out early then under the terms of the contract it would be liable for penalty payments.

The timing of the closure of Excite UK at the end of the year is also significant since it would be three years since BT and Excite inked their UK partnership - just the right time to initiate a contract break.

However, Evan Rudowski, MD of Excite Europe, has strenuously denied that Excite will pull out of the UK at the end of the year.

He told The Register "This is absolutely not the case. We absolutely deny this. This is not correct at all. This story is entirely wrong and full of factual errors. There is no motivation for BT and Excite to end this deal."

In November 1998 BT paid $10 million for a half stake in the new joint venture. At the time, the reasons behind the venture seemed clear. BT provided Net access but had little content with which to retain users.

Excite had a portal and stacks of content - but no ISP.

Three years on and the Excite/BT venture is looking somewhat out of place. BT has invested heavily in its openworld brand and has done much to attract content providers - especially for its broadband users. There seems little reason why it should maintain its interest in Excite UK.

A spokesman for BT denied that Excite UK would be pulled at the end of the year, adding that the venture was "doing well". ®

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