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Europe Online loses key investor

Burda pulls out of Europe Online and may partner with CompuServe.

German publisher Burda is pulling out of the Luxembourg-based group Europe Online and will concentrate on its own Internet services within Germany, Bloomberg news service reported Sunday.

"In view of the chances our own services offer, the company believes it does not make economic sense to tie long-term capital and creativity to a project which is difficult to navigate," a Burda spokesman said.

Burda, publisher of weekly magazine Focus and numerous other periodicals, owns about one-third of Europe Online. Its withdrawal increases speculation that the company will form an alliance with CompuServe to compete with the partnership between Bertelsmann and America Online, which has been offering services in Germany for about seven months.

CompuServe was in talks with the German company about a possible stake in Europe Online and is one of several companies negotiating with Burda about a possible share. CompuServe, which has been offering service in Germany since 1989, has 260,000 subscribers there, making it the country's second-largest service provider after Deutsche Telekom's T-Online.

Europe Online, which began collecting fees from users in March, has about 25,000 members, about 70 percent of them in Germany. Other companies holding stakes in Europe Online include AT&T, the United Kingdom's Pearson and several Luxembourg banks.