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HP takes a stake in e-services firms

Hewlett-Packard makes an equity investment in USA.net, as well as invests in other e-services firms as part of its plan to help businesses move their operations onto the Net.

Through free equipment and an equity investment, Hewlett Packard will give at least $15 million to USA.net.

Today's deal along with others is part of HP's "e-services" plan, which helps businesses move their operations on to the Internet. HP often takes a percentage of a business partner's revenue stream in exchange for hardware and other services.

HP will make an investment of an undisclosed sum, as well as offer USA.net HP hardware, software, and services, said Nick Earle, senior vice president of HP's enterprise computing group. USA.net offers email and other advanced messaging services through its Web site.

In addition, HP also outlined an anticipated e-commerce deal with Latin American Internet service provider StarMedia, another company to which HP will give free hardware. Executives declined to say how much that deal was worth, as it is based on how fast StarMedia's customer base grows.

StarMedia is a partner in the first phase of HP's "commerce for the millennium" program, a business strategy that gives Internet service providers hardware in exchange for a percentage of revenues.

HP also teamed with eOnline, a company that rents out network access to complex business applications such as those offered by consulting firms like SAP. In that deal, eOnline will buy an undisclosed amount of HP equipment and get access to HP's sales channel.

StarMedia will use automated help software to make sure customers can set up online stores within 24 hours, said StarMedia chief executive Fernando Espuelas. The service will be offered for a set cost per month, possibly $100, Earle added.

"HP looks at Latin America as one of our most important growth areas," said Ann Livermore, chief of HP's enterprise computing group.

John Street, chief executive of USA.net, said his company currently manages 12 million email boxes and is adding about 500,000 a month. The revenues HP receives will be based on new customers, not the existing customer base, the companies said.