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Merger creates Net auction giant in Europe

Britain's says it has agreed to purchase Germany's in a stock swap worth $1 billion, creating Europe's biggest Internet auctioneer.

British Internet auction house today said it has agreed to purchase Germany's in a stock swap worth 1.1 billion euros ($1 billion), creating Europe's biggest Internet auctioneer.

The British firm said it was offering 42.6 of its own shares for each Ricardo share. The deal values Ricardo at 127 euros ($115.12) a share, or a total of 1.1 billion euros ($997 million), on Germany's Neuer Markt, based on closing share prices yesterday.

Ricardo provides consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer online auction services in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States. The company also operates a business-to-business auction service in Germany. QXL provides online auction sites in nine languages across Europe.

Analysts have been anticipating a consolidation in the European online auction sector to take on U.S. Net auctioneer eBay, with QXL considered the most credible consolidator in the European arena.

QXL said the new operation, to be called QXL Ricardo, will have 1.17 million registered users and will be listed on the London Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq.

The British company has been on an acquisition spree during the last year. In March, it agreed to purchase Sweden's Bidlet in a stock swap worth about $550.8 million.

QXL was founded in September 1997 by former Financial Times journalist Tim Jackson and now has more than 100 employees.