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Czech Portal Centrum.cz Acquired the Largest Local Entertainment Web Site

[Prague, CZECH REPUBLIC] Centrum.cz, the third largest Web portal in the Czech Republic, acquired the largest local leisure Web site, chat server XChat, for an undisclosed sum. XChat with its alleged 180,000 users is one of the most important Web sites in Central and Eastern Europe oriented on recreational activities.

"We wish to offer new services to our users. Connection [of our services] with XChat brings a lot of opportunities here," said Ondrej Tomek, CEO of NetCentrum company, which is the owner of Centrum.cz. Recreational activities on the Net, he added, represent the area with the fastest growth worldwide. Therefore, Centrum.cz is going to complement its search, news and communication services with the entertainment.

Chat is considered to be not only pastime activity but also the tool for serious work in the Czech Republic. XChat hosts huge number of professional discussion groups. Centrum.cz expects a lot from seamless connection between the discussion groups and its search engine. NetCentrum announced it doesn't prepare any major changes on XChat. "We have bought XChat because is the best, so we don't intend to change its services. However, we have to innovate its infrastructure to ensure it will remain the best in the future, too," said Tomek and explained how he wants to interconnect services of its portal with the chat server.

Centrum.cz started in September 1999. It received investment from two venture capital funds in May 2000: Baring Communications Equity Emerging Europe and Intel Capital. Both funds now hold minority stake in NetCentrum Ltd. Neither the stake nor its value was officially disclosed. Czech analysts assume a figure of about US $4 million, which gives NetCentrum power to purchase smaller but interesting local Internet companies. Both its principal competitors, portals Seznam.cz and Atlas.cz, are also bolstered by substantial foreign investment. Portals are often seen as natural centers of concentration on the Czech Internet - concentration of power, capital, brains and visibility. The threshold level for building a successful site is increasing in the same time, as the overall structure of Czech Web market more and more resembles the situation in Western countries.