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Staples creates .com stock

Staples Inc. (Nasdaq: SPLS) said Wednesday it will create a tracking stock for the company's e-commerce business. Staples.com stock will follow Staples' to pursuit of its electronic sales of office supplies to small businesses on the Internet.

Shares closed at 21 1/2 Tuesday, below their 52-week high of 35 15/16. The Web hybrid began to transition from brick-and-mortar retailing with a Web site launched in November 1998.

The plans to create a tracking stock are subject to shareholder approval, and Staples has no immediate plans for an initial public offering of Staples.com stock, the company said. Investors are looking at tracking shares more skeptically than traditional IPOs these days, and should check for assets when a company unloads some of its balance sheets on to a new company.

A focused e-commerce unit would help Staples "dominate the $250 billion office supply market," said Staples Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas G. Stemberg in a company release.

Jeanne M. Lewis, formerly executive vice president of marketing, has been promoted to the new position of president for Staples.com. Jeffrey L. Levitan, formerly senior vice president for Staples.com, will be to executive vice president of strategy and development for Staples.com.

The Staples site, which serves home office and small business customers was launched in November 1998. The Staples.com tracking stock will include all three of the company's e-commerce businesses: Staples.com, Quillcorp.com and StaplesLink.com, each of which target a specific customer base. Quillcorp.com is operated by Quill, which was acquired by Staples in May 1998, and serves a small- to medium-sized business customer. StaplesLink.com serves Staples' medium- to large-sized business customers who purchase office supplies on a contract basis.

According to PC Data's most recent e-commerce rankings, Staples.com ranked 38 out of the top 40 e-commerce Web properties.