RealTime IT News

Excite@Home's Ticker Fever

Ever since the merger last May of Internet search portal Excite and cable access provider @Home, the combined company has been criticized for lacking strategic direction.

Now it's clear exactly where Excite@Home (ATHM) is headed: the IPO launch pad. Again.

On Tuesday the company announced a joint venture with Dow Jones to launch a Web portal targeting small and mid-sized businesses, with plans to take the combined entity public later this year.

It's the second time in the past three months that Excite@Home has revealed intentions to spin off a new ticker. Last November, the company said it would create a tracking stock for its Web media assets.

That move came in response to investor confusion about Excite@Home's business plan and rumors that it was considering selling its media assets, including the Excite.com Web portal. Despite much initial hype about the synergies between Excite's content offerings and @Home's high-speed access, there has been little evidence that one has created great value for the other.

The market certainly hasn't been persuaded. Shares of ATHM are down sharply since the merger was announced on Jan. 19, 1999; Tuesday afternoon's price of 33 1/2 is 42 percent below the 57 11/16 close on that day, and is 63 percent below ATHM's all-time high closing price of $91 per share last April 13.

While it's way too early to tell how either of the planned stock offerings will do, the arrangement with Dow Jones is the more interesting and potentially promising of the two. Partnering with a well-known and respected business content provider should ensure heavy interest from investors, especially since the site, Work.com, will target the B2B market.

And since Dow Jones and Excite@Home intend to own the majority of shares, short supply and high demand could create a moonshot when the Work.com IPO hits the street.

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