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BellSouth, SBC Buy YellowPages.com

SBC and BellSouth are teaming to provide national online yellow pages and local Internet search to beat back a challenge from Google , Yahoo and others.

The regional telecoms announced a joint venture today, as well as the acquisition of online directory publisher YellowPages.com.

The purchase price was not disclosed, but the Wall Street Journal, citing sources close to the deal, reported the deal's value at a little less than $100 million.

Through the combination, the YellowPages.com site is expected to tally more than 50 million consumer searches per month.

"Both print and Internet yellow pages are an extremely important part of an integrated advertising message," Elmer Smith, BellSouth's president of advertising and publishing, said in a statement.

The new venture will be based in Pasadena, Calif., with operations in Henderson, Nev., and will draw staff from the three companies. Charles Stubbs, an executive with BellSouth, has been tapped as president and CEO.

SBC and BellSouth will manage local online Yellow Pages relationships in their respective regions, outside the new venture, and the new venture will develop a sales force for national advertising accounts.

SBC's SMARTpages.com and BellSouth's RealPages.com plan to begin displaying their advertising on a co-branded YellowPages.com site in early 2005. The two companies already have a strong working relationship; they co-own the wireless carrier Cingular.

Today's move by the carriers comes after Google began testing local search as an alternative to the yellow pages.

Yahoo debuted a similar local search function on its Yahoo Maps site this year, as well. Called SmartView, it plots local stores, ATMs, hotels, movie theaters on map queries made by users.