AltaVista, CMGI talks continue

The Internet-search unit of Compaq is still in negotiations for a possible sale to CMGI.

Compaq's AltaVista Internet-search unit is still talking with CMGI about a possible sale, and AltaVista itself is on the prowl for more acquisitions to beef up its Web site, an executive said.

CMGI, which runs Internet venture funds, and AltaVista last week said they were in talks about CMGI buying a controlling stake. AltaVista chief executive Rod Schrock said the discussions continue, though there is "no new news." AltaVista also still plans an initial public offering by year's end, Schrock said.

AltaVista is trying to establish itself as an Internet destination where users shop, get news about local events and search for information using AltaVista's technology. The company has made two acquisitions this year to add shopping and local events. Today it revamped all of its content, adding personalized information, online auctions and a new look.

"This is the start of the redesign. We're going well beyond search to provide a network of services," Schrock said.

AltaVista, based in Palo Alto, California, is one of the top five sites worldwide. The unit, set up as an independent company earlier this year, likely will make more acquisitions.

"I would be surprised if we didn't do something in that area by the end of the year," Schrock said.

Compaq acquired AltaVista last year in its approximately $9 billion purchase of Digital Equipment.

Houston-based Compaq, though, has been mired in its own problems, including expected losses and the search for a new chief executive. Compaq ousted Eckhard Pfeiffer in April because of the PC maker's poor performance.

AltaVista's redesign includes a "freshness guarantee'' on search results to insure that information is current.

A new feature available at the end of July will let users download a small application and personalize data in a window separate from the browser.

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