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Priceline makes bid for B2B market

The Internet retailer plans to expand its focus to the increasingly hot business-to-business sector in the second half of the year.

NEW YORK--Priceline.com will expand its focus to the increasingly hot business-to-business sector in the second half of the year, its chief executive said today.

Speaking to investors at PaineWebber's Internet conference in New York, Richard Braddock, also Priceline's chairman, said the company will offer "name-your-price" services and products to businesses, including telecommunications and freight services, as well as small-office equipment products.

Priceline, which lets consumers name their price for airline tickets, car rentals, hotel rooms and other services and products, joins a growing list of online and offline companies jumping on the business-to-business (B2B) bandwagon.

"I personally think we are in the crescendo state (in the B2B sector) and things will calm down," Braddock said. "But having said that, I think there are things in the market that we will be able to take advantage of."

Braddock added that Priceline will likely enter into alliances with several major B2B players, but he did not name any potential partners.

"B2B has shown to be certainly much bigger than even the (business-to-consumer) sector," said Sara Farley, an e-commerce analyst at PaineWebber in an interview. "With the large supply chains that companies face, I think there is a lot of opportunity for Priceline to help them become more cost efficient."

The leading research firms have the B2B market pegged between $2.7 trillion and $7.3 trillion by 2004 from about $131 billion in 1999. In comparison, Forrester Research projects business-to-consumer spending will reach $184.5 billion in 2004, up from $20.3 billion last year.

Separately, shares of Priceline rose about 20 percent today on optimism that higher sales and new products could pare losses for the Internet retailer.

Braddock said that the company will delve deeper into the business-to-consumer market, adding name-your-price services for health and beauty products, as well as travel cruises. The company recently announced that users would be able to bid on gasoline starting around Memorial Day.