Spanish Firms Create Online Giant

Two Goliaths of the Spanish online market have joined to form the world’s largest non-English language Internet portal–and a new global online force.

An agreement signed this week by Telefonica Interactiva (part of the Grupo
Telefonica
) and Grupo Ole makes the Ole
service the world’s leading provider of Spanish and Portuguese-language
content–and puts it at the level of dominant American services like
America Online, Yahoo and Netscape.

“This agreement seals the union between the global leader in Spanish and
Portuguese-language telecommunications and the Spanish leader in portals
and Internet content providers,” Juan Villalonga, Telefonica’s president, told Europa Press. “The result of this union will no doubt be the world’s leading Spanish and Portuguese-language Internet firm–and one of the world’s five major Internet firms.”

From its origins in a Barcelona garage in 1996, “Ole” has reportedly grown into the largest Spanish-language portal–and the second most-visited site in
Europe. The five million visits and 27 million pages viewed in February
constitute a 20 percent increase over January. It is also a founding member
of the Alleurope Network, with its 70 million monthly page views. Ole’s revenues for 1999 are expected to jump to 915 million
pesetas ($6.1 million)–up from 140 million ($930,000) last year.

In addition to Spanish and Portuguese services, Ole offers content and
search capabilities in Spanish regional languages such as Basque, Catalan and Galician. Continuing under the “Ole” brand name, the new firm will in coming months increase content, develop individual country-specific portals
for its Latin American clients, and work to spread Telefonica’s Internet
services to that market.

Telefonica Interactiva was formed four months ago to manage the Internet
services of Telefonica, Spain’s telecommunications leader. The former
Spanish state monopoly is now a leading firm throughout Latin America.

One big question mark raised regards the fate of Magallanes Spanish-language version of
AltaVista–and whether it will be incorporated into Ole. Telefonica has
exclusive rights to the service in Spain and Latin America. Ole now
provides a link to the AltaVista-Magallanes search engine.

Last week, Ole spread its operations to New York, ready to woo the U.S.
Spanish-language market. Josep Valles, the company’s president, stated
that he projects revenues for 2000 to exceed $500 million.

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