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AltaVista Pulls IPO for Good

Internet portal AltaVista has formally withdrawn its intended initial public offering, an unsurprising move given its own struggles and the market's withering recent treatment of technology firms, including its parent, Internet holding company CMGI of Andover, Mass.,

The Palo Alto., Calif., portal originally hinted at going public in 1996, when then parent company Digital Equipment Corp. announced plans to spin off its search engine and software in a $50 million IPO. AltaVista would have been the fifth search engine firm to go public that year, but DEC later abandoned plans in 1997 as the IPO market for tech companies took its first slide.

Bigger, stronger and 80 percent owned by CMGI, AltaVista came back in December 1999 with a $300 million dollar plan for going public, only to postpone when another downslide hit the market this spring.

The company completed its seesaw trend Wednesday by filing a request for withdrawal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, canceling an intended distribution of 14.8 million shares.

It cited unfavorable market conditions as the reason for the cancellation.

AltaVista spokesperson David Emanuel said the company's evolving business strategy, specifically an added emphasis on licensing search software to businesses rather than being a portal destination site, also necessitated the withdrawal.

"We just believe it is prudent to withdraw and resubmit at a later date when market conditions have re-stabilized and improved," he said. "I wish I could predict when that later date will be, but we've been in a very volatile market since April."

AltaVista has laid off more than 300 employees in the last year, and CEO Rod Schrock resigned in October.

Jayson Matthews writes for siliconvalley.internet.com, an internet.com news site.