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Intuit looks to the Net

Intuit chairman Scott Cook says the company will focus on small businesses in the European market and look to the Internet for more revenues.

SAN FRANCISCO--Intuit (INTU), which recently posted flat second-quarter profits and revenues, will focus on small businesses for its European market and look to the Internet for more revenues, the company?s chairman said.

International sales have been soft at Intuit, with sales suffering because European consumers pay their bills differently than Americans, chairman Scott Cook said at the BancAmerica Robertson Stephens Technology '98 conference yesterday afternoon. As a result, he said, the company will focus on European businesses.

"There is a huge worldwide opportunity, but in the near future, don?t expect positive results," Cook said.

The executive did cite other areas with near-term growth potential, however, namely, the Internet. Last week Intuit launched its TurboTax Online, which allows customers to file their tax returns online for a fee. This alternative to the company?s shrink-wrapped TurboTax product expands its opportunities by generating advertising revenues, Cook said.

He added that it's also a more lucrative product line because customers are charged a fee for each filing, as opposed to the software package, which can be used to prepare an unlimited number of returns.

Mortgage and insurance assistance also are areas that Intuit is eyeing in terms of revenue opportunities. Soon Intuit users will be able to use the company's site to search for the best insurance rates, bank offers, and most favorable mortgage rates.

"This will allow customers to have apples-to-apples comparison," Cook said. The new service allows users to fill out a form, which is then used to generate a selection of rates, as well as contact information for each choice, on the site.

A second version of this feature, set to launch in April, will allow users to complete the sale online. Intuit will get a portion of the sale once the deal is closed, Cook said.

Eventually users of the new product may wind up the winners, Cook said, because insurance companies and banks soon may start to realize that doing online is cheaper.