[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.