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MoneyCentral, CNBC.com Merge

Microsoft Corp. and General Electric's NBC said they will merge the MSN MoneyCentral site and CNBC.com, "creating a personal finance powerhouse" distributed exclusively through MSN on the Internet.

The move follows NBC's decision April 9 to shut down its online play, NBCi.

Financial arrangements were not disclosed, but the multiyear agreement calls for MSN to become the online home for the newly merged site, to be called CNBC MoneyCentral.

The two sites combined will have reach extending to approximately 16 million monthly unique visitors, the companies said.

The move clearly will result in economies of scale of the sort often deemed necessary in a time which has seen huge financial problems for many Internet-related companies.

"It made sense to consolidate our efforts given what's happening with the Web business," said NBC President and CEO Bob Wright in a conference call on the merger.

Asked about possible job losses, Wright said: "There probably will be some adjustments, but I don't think they will be substantial."

"Microsoft will operate the site, and there will be a joint editorial team to deliver the content, very much like the way MSNBC is handled," said Microsoft President and COO Rick Belluzzo.

Sure to benefit are consumers who follow the market as avid amateurs, as well as financial services professionals and brokers, since the site will combine personal finance content from MSN with content from the popular financial cable news network.

MoneyCentral brings tools to let consumers manage their portfolios, research companies and screen stocks; CNBC.com brings its Stocks to Watch, Guest List, Stock Picks, Sector Watch and portfolio-specific CNBC-TV guest alerts.

The cable channel will also direct viewers to the new site, expected to launch this summer, throughout its broadcasts. Wright said that he doesn't contemplate streaming CNBC live over the Internet yet, but it "probably will happen at some point."

Erik Jorgensen, general manager of Microsoft's consumer financial products group, was picked to head the operation.

The agreement builds on the MSNBC joint venture created by Microsoft and NBC in 1995.

Like MSNBC.com, the site will operate from Microsoft's offices, with the editorial team split between NBC's Fort Lee, N.J. offices and Microsoft's Redmond, Wash. location. Wright said that ad sales will be handled by MSN and MoneyCentral ad staff.