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E-commerce firm plans IPO

E-commerce software vendor Intershop Communications is planning to go public on the Swiss stock exchange this spring.

E-commerce software vendor Intershop Communications is planning to go public on the Swiss stock exchange this spring, according to a source close to the company.

Intershop, founded in East Germany by chief executive Stephan Schambach in January 1992, opened its U.S. headquarters, now in San Francisco, in April 1996. Intershop's software lets merchants set up Web storefronts to sell products and services. It also has a commerce-hosting version designed for ISPs and Internet malls that seek to host storefronts for merchants who don't want to do it themselves.

"The valuations on NASDAQ [the U.S. stock exchange most popular for companies selling stock to outside investors] just aren't good in this category now," an individual familiar with Intershop's plans said. "That's why we're going to Switzerland. In Europe, people don't say 'e-commerce'--they say Intershop."

Intershop's software is designed as a catalog and secure transactions engine for Web merchants. The company is close to releasing version 3.0 of its software.

The company hopes to counter its second-tier status in the U.S. by its strong market share in Europe. The company also is investing in its Asian marketing efforts, which ironically have been boosted by currency and economic woes in many Asian nations.

"Intershop's software can reduce the cost of sales," said this person, who asked not to be named.

Intershop, funded in March 1996 by venture capital firm Technology Holdings, opened U.S. operations a month later. The company's software developers, however, remain primarily in Germany, where competition for technical talent is less intense and developers can thus be hired on lower salaries.

Intershop markets its software to companies selling both to consumers and businesses over the Net. It competes with e-commerce vendors like iCat, Microsoft, and Netscape Communications.

The source declined to say how much stock will be sold to the public or what the company's valuation will be, but Intershop apparently has selected investment bankers for the IPO.