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Freeserve, Barclays Warm Up to Small Businesses

Freeserve and Barclays Monday agreed to co-create a small business portal which will combine Freeserve's portal and Barclays' consumer financial site.

Freeserve (FREE) will hold 60 percent of the company while Barclays with control the remaining 40 percent. The venture is nodding to Barclay to woo its 750,000 small businesses/small office clients into the online venture, as well a tap to Freeserve's ISP customer base.

The venture's launch date is set for May, though a name for the new entity has not been released. Both company's sites will promote the new company.

Through the deal, a co-branded version of the Freeserve portal would be developed for Barclays.net ISP users.

The portal features will include communications products and community tools; business advice ranging from marketing to e-commerce to tax information; online access to Barclays account information; and e-commerce offerings. Freeserve's Marketplace will offer users site building tools and other e-commerce solutions and support.

"Barclays is already the UK's largest Internet bank. Last week we announced Barclays B2B.com in the corporate market," said John Varley, chief executive, retail financial services at Barclays. "With Freeserve we now intend to set the pace in the small business marketplace."

Varley also claimed that one in five small business banking customers already uses Barclays' online services.