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Sprint deal hoists Net2Phone to more gains

Net2Phone Inc. (Nasdaq: NTOP) hopped up another 10 percent Wednesday after it said that Sprint Corp., the No. 3 U.S. long distance phone company, would hold market trials of its technology and network for phone calls to Asia.

Shares in the Internet telephony company were up 5 5/16 to 58 7/16 at midday Wednesday. The company has been making a lot of noise since its IPO in July. Net2Phone's quiet period ended Tuesday.

The service with Sprint will be called Sprint Callternatives, would handle consumer long-distance calls to Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, India, Thailand, and Japan. Net2Phone will be creating a customer service operation to assist customer inquiries in Mandarin, Cantonese and Korean. The company's billing technology will let Callternatives customers see their telephone accounts from the Net2Phone web site.

Today's leap makes for Net2Phone's third straight day of gains. Net2Phone Inc. soared 17 percent Tuesday on announcements that Jonathan Fram was named president, and Compaq agreed to a distribution deal. It was also cheered on its upward way by analysts initiating coverage. Tuesday's gains were in addition to a 36 percent jump on Monday.

The Compaq deal calls for Compaq to include a button linking to a co-branded site in its Presario Internet keyboards. Net2Phone Chief Executive Howard Balter said the Compaq deal is the company's third exclusive product-bundling agreement and that Net2Phone aims to strike more such deals. Net2Phone has also struck product-bundling deals with America Online Inc.'s (NYSE: AOL) ICQ chat service and its Netscape Navigator Web browser, and has relationships with NBC and GE Capital.

New president Fram, who formerly served as general manager of new media at Bloomberg L.P., will be in charge of expanding Net2Phone's business and developing relationship's with Internet service providers.