AltaVista files for $300 million IPO

The Web portal recently acquired by Internet investment company CMGI files to go public in hopes of raising as much as $300 million.

AltaVista, the Web portal recently acquired by Internet investment company CMGI, today filed to go public in hopes of raising as much as $300 million.

The company plans to use the funds for general corporate purposes, including potential Tune in to CNET News.com TV's IPO Forecast acquisitions, working capital and advertising. AltaVista will disclose the number of shares to be issued and the pricing range in a later filing. The $300 million the company expects to raise is based on its registration filing fee.

The filing comes as CMGI is considering a public offering for other companies in its investment and operating portfolio. Today, chief executive David Wetherell said the company is considering selling shares of CMGI's venture fund, @Ventures, to the public. And on Wednesday, Wetherell said during the company's quarterly earnings call that he is considering taking other divisions public, including free ISP 1stUp.com and Web content personalization service MyWay.

Today's announcement also comes four months after AltaVista was acquired by CMGI for $2.3 billion from its former parent company, Compaq Computer. AltaVista was originally a division of Digital Equipment but became a Compaq-owned company after the hardware giant acquired Digital in June 1998 for an aggregate purchase price of $9.1 billion.

This is not the first time AltaVista has been primed for a public offering. In January, Compaq announced it would turn AltaVista into a separate division with the intention of going public. And in 1996, Digital Equipment filed with the SEC to take AltaVista public but canceled its IPO plans nearly a year later because of a restructuring at Digital and an overall cooling of the Internet IPO market.

But since CMGI took over AltaVista, the company has undergone several changes. In October, CMGI unveiled the most concerted makeover for AltaVista to date, boosted by a $120 million consumer advertising campaign.

CMGI hopes to turn AltaVista into a major challenger to Web portal giants such as Yahoo, MSN and AOL.com. In doing so, AltaVista has made numerous moves to beef up its offerings, including an acquisition of financial Web site Raging Bull and the addition of a branded free ISP service powered by 1stUp.com.

In the three-month period ended Oct. 31, AltaVista reported $52.6 million in net revenues, a jump from $34 million in the previous period, according to today's filing. Over the October quarter, however, AltaVista posted a net loss of $267.7 million, wider than the loss of $237 million in the previous period, the filing said.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter will lead the underwriting group, which also includes Hambrecht & Quist; Robertson Stephens; Prudential Volpe Technology, a unit of Prudential Securities; and Wit Capital.

The company plans to trade on the Nasdaq stock market under the ticker symbol "ALTA."

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