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NETGRAPHE, 9 TELECOM Take on French Internet Market

[Montreal, CANADA] Netgraphe, a major Canadian French language Internet editor, and 9 TELECOM, a French subsidiary of TELECOM ITALIA, have reached an agreement in principle for the creation of a 50/50 joint venture in the Internet sector.

The joint venture's primary objective is to to position itself among the top five Internet editors in France as early as 2002.

NETGRAPHE's editorial experience coupled with 9 TELECOM's expertise will likely bring the new company an undeniable advantage based on its current positioning at the heart of the French Web.

As soon as this Fall, the company will launch an entirely new type of portal, with a unique concept, for 9 TELECOM's retail Internet access clients and for all French Web surfers generally.

For its part, NETGRAPHE will contribute to the new strategic alliance its assets linked to the Megagiciel and Multimedium Web sites and will deliver versions of its successful sites -- Toile.com, Jobboom.com, and Webfin.com -- adapted to the French market.

The contributions are evaluated at Euro 28 million (US $38 million). The agreement also anticipates that 9 TELECOM will invest Euro 28 million (US $38 million) in cash in the new company.

The parties expect to reach a final agreement by the end of September. "This agreement is in line with our objective to conquer new markets through partnerships with leaders in order to present French-speaking Europe, a market of nearly 70 million individuals, with an unprecedented service offering," said Normand Drolet, NETGRAPHE president and chief executive officer.

Bernard Marchant, chief executive officer of 9 TELECOM pointed out that "There is absolute industrial synergy between the two partners that enables 9 TELECOM to offer its clients, besides very attractive access conditions, a portal that will rapidly become one of the most creative and effective in the marketplace."

"This complementarity results from the Internet editing expertise built by Netgraphe over the last five years in one of the most developed markets in this sector on the one hand, and on the other, from the telecommunications operating know-how of 9 TELECOM (as well as its presence in and understanding of the French market)."