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Excite@Home expands its overseas presence

The nation's largest high-speed Internet firm expands its Dutch cable modem venture to include neighboring Belgium in the firm's latest overseas move.

Excite@Home, the nation's largest high-speed Internet service, has expanded its Dutch cable modem venture to include neighboring Belgium consumers, the latest overseas expansion for the company.

Called @Home Benelux, the Dutch venture will now include more than 2.5 million households served by Telenet, a cable operator based in Belgium. Combined, Excite@Home ventures now have the potential to serve more than 4 million homes in the Netherlands and Belgium.

The service is expected to be available at the beginning of next year. Telenet will migrate consumers from its existing Pandora Internet service to the new Telenet@Home.

The expansion news comes at an uncertain time for the Net-over-cable firm, following a recent shareholder suit and questions concerning its relationship with its largest shareholder, AT&T.

International expansion is a major strategic priority for Excite@Home. The company hopes to mirror its early domestic successes by locking up long-term exclusive contracts with as many cable operator partners as possible. All of Excite@Home's international agreements are seven-year commitments expiring in 2006 or 2007.

The company announced a German offering last month and formed an Australian venture in June after creating a Japanese joint venture earlier this year. Excite@Home has strong partnerships in Canada and already offers service in the Netherlands, its first foray beyond North America.

Excite@Home previously confirmed it also has held talks with British cable operators and the company has created a program to encourage foreign content developers to create content for its overseas efforts.

Earnings on tap
Separately, Excite@Home will report its third quarter financial results tomorrow. Wall Street expects the company to post a loss of 1 cent per share, according to a consensus of analysts polled by First Call.

Analysts expect Excite@Home, which currently claims about 620,000 customers, to top 800,000 subscribers. The majority of financial analysts look for the company to have between 1 million and 1.1 million customers by the end of the year, when Excite@Home also is expected to post its first profitable quarter.