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Tellme merges with European counterpart

Looking to extend the reach of its voice portal services overseas for the first time, Tellme Networks merges with European counterpart MagicPhone.

Looking to extend the reach of its voice portal services overseas for the first time, Tellme Networks has merged with European counterpart MagicPhone.

The two companies, which will be called Tellme, will not immediately change operations in either country. MagicPhone offers advanced voice mail and other telephone information systems to corporations in Europe, much as Tellme does in the United States. It does not have a counterpart to the U.S. consumer voice portal that Tellme maintains, however.

The two are part of a wave of companies that are offering Internet-style information over the telephone. Tellme's technology is based on voice recognition, allowing people to get news, weather or restaurant information by talking to a voice mail-like system on the phone.

Tellme and many of its rivals have moved away from the direct consumer portal market and are instead selling their services to businesses such as airlines or banks that want to give customers information on the phone. The idea has won the support of several bigger companies, including AOL Time Warner, Sprint and AT&T.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based start-up said it considered launching its own network in Europe but decided against it.

"We saw a faster way of getting the company an international presence was to merge with a company already viewed as a leader there," said David Weiden, a vice president of marketing at Tellme.

The newly combined company will have 269 employees. Tellme laid off about 10 percent of its staff last month as part of a move away from its original consumer focus. No employees will lose their jobs as part of the merger, the company said.

Tellme would not provide financial details of the deal, but Weiden said the financials are consistent with a merger, not a buyout.