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Excite@Home, Dow Jones plan portal, IPO

The high-speed Net company and the publisher of The Wall Street Journal will create a portal targeting businesses and plan to take it public this year, News.com has learned.

    Excite@Home and Dow Jones will create a new Internet company targeting businesses and plan to take it public this year, CNET News.com has learned.

    The company will develop a Web portal designed for small and medium-sized businesses and is expected to file to sell a minority stake in an initial public stock offering, according to sources familiar with the plans. The site, also expected to debut this year, will keep the name of the business portal launched by Excite@Home last fall, Work.com.

    Excite@Home, a high-speed Net access and content company, and financial information firm Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, will each own 50 percent of Work.com, sources say. They will also have an equal number of members on the board of directors, according to sources.

    The partnership is the latest in a series of spin-off plans for Excite@Home. The company plans to issue a tracking stock for its content and portal properties in August.

    Moreover, the venture reflects the continued boom in business-to-business services. Many analysts and executives believe that the small and mid-sized business market represents a huge untapped opportunity for Net-related companies.

    Dow Jones and Excite@Home have individually tried to target the business market with Web portals just as interest in the small- and mid-sized business space has reached a crescendo.

    Dowjones.com, a small business portal, launched last summer, and Excite@Home announced its business site in September. Scores of so-called application service providers (ASPs) and networking companies are also scrambling to make headway with small businesses.

    Even the major business software makers have tried their hand at the business portal idea. SAP, a software provider for large corporations, operates the MySAP.com portal, and Oracle has similar aspirations.

    The spin-off strategy is not new for Excite@Home. After months of internal bickering amongst its major cable partners, Excite@Home announced that it would create a tracking stock for its media and content assets.

    The move came just as tracking stocks appeared to become in vogue. For example, AT&T decided to spin off its wireless assets as a tracking stock, and Disney's Go.com became a tracking stock late last year. Speculation has swirled for months that Microsoft might consider a similar strategy for some of its assets.

    News.com's Ben Heskett contributed to this report.