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Softbank invests $20 million in Webhire

Japan's Softbank Capital Partners pumps $20 million into Webhire, hoping to give the online recruiting technology and infrastructure company a spark to help accelerate its growth.

Japan's Softbank Capital Partners, one of the most successful Internet venture firms, today pumped $20 million into Webhire, hoping to give the online recruiting technology and infrastructure company a spark to help accelerate its growth.

Softbank will acquire 1.67 million shares of Webhire stock currently held by Internet retail giant, giving the venture firm a 40 percent stake.

Softbank said it was attracted by Webhire's Internet recruiting brand and services. The company offers recruiting tools to corporate human resources departments to help them use the Web to quickly and cost-effectively connect with job-seekers and to manage the hiring process, the company said.

Shares of Webhire jumped 24.53 percent, or 1.63 points, to 8.25 to match the company's 52-week high. The stock has traded as low as 2.25 during the past 52 weeks.

With the economy still booming, employers are increasingly turning to online recruiters and job management systems to help find workers to fill positions in the tight labor market. Other companies that offer some similar services or tools include Alexus, CareerBuilder, and HireSystems.

"Online recruiting is one of the most powerful Internet applications, and the online recruiting marketplace is valued by some industry experts at $30 billion per year," said Softbank general partner Charles Lax, who will also join Webhire's board of directors.

Webhire has partnerships with job listings firms CareerPath and the Washington Post and more than 1,000 corporate clients.

The company plans to use the investment to enhance the content and technology supporting Webhire Internet recruiting tools and to pursue a more aggressive marketing strategy.

Webhire, which just last week acquired Hireworks--which makes software that locates candidates on the Internet, assesses their qualifications, and contacts them automatically--may use some of the Softbank capital for acquisitions to complement the company's growth objectives.

Softbank holds stakes in more than 100 Internet companies, including Yahoo and E*Trade.

Separately, Webhire today reported a third-quarter net loss of 49 cents per share compared with profits of 6 cents for the year-ago quarter. A consensus of analysts expected the company to post a 19 cents-per-share loss for the quarter, according to First Call.

"Our e-commerce business continues to grow as companies shift to Internet recruiting models," said Webhire president Martin Fahey in a statement. "We experienced a more than 50 percent increase in customer enrollments for our Webhire Recruiter solution during our fiscal third quarter."