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Will @Home, Excite clean house too?

The layoff plans announced this week by AOL and Netscape raise questions about similar possibilities in the merger between @Home Network and Excite.

The layoff plans announced this week by AOL and Netscape Communications have raised questions about similar possibilities in the merger between @Home Network and Excite.

Although the deals bear many differences, both involve high-profile Internet companies that face the prospect of redundancies in various departments. Even without parallel business models, any merger is subject to some layoffs where administrative positions are duplicated.

But some analysts have said that @Home, which moved to acquire Web portal heavyweight Excite in January, may not have to make many drastic moves.

"Whatever overlap there is will be more than made up by the natural growth of the company," said Glenn Powers, an analyst at Cruttenden Roth. "@Home is a small company with a big future."

@Home is growing at such a rate that, even if some jobs overlap in content divisions in the newly combined company, the company still needs more employees, Powers and others say. Analysts also point to @Home's ongoing hiring spree.

"@Home is still hiring as fast as they can...You can't get a parking space there anymore!" said Michael Harris, an analyst with Kinetic Strategies. @Home has about 600 employees, up from about 100 in 1997, while Excite has 800 people on its payroll.

Nevertheless, it is nearly impossible to predict with any certainty what could happen with such multibillion-dollar deals. To be sure, some analysts were caught off guard when AOL announced Wednesday that it will cut up to 500 jobs at Netscape and as many more internally as a result of its recent corporate marriage.

The situation with @Home and Excite, however, may be markedly different. Bruce Smith, an equity analyst with Jeffries & Company, said the two companies "really are separate entities" and added: "It's completely different from Netscape-AOL."

Both companies declined to comment on their merger or the potential for layoffs, citing a Securities and Exchange Commission-mandated "quiet" period.

@Home and Excite have some similar positions in their content divisions, including @Home's @Media unit, yet Excite is largely collects content while @Home produces only a limited amount of content for the Net.

Many of @Home's employees manage the company's fiber optic backbone, regional data centers, and content caching sites, while Excite's staff includes Web developers, Internet application programmers, and a pivotal advertising and e-commerce sales force.

The @Home-Excite deal, which analysts say is expected to close in late April or early May, has been approved by both companies' boards of directors. The merger must still be approved by shareholders, as well as federal regulators.

@Home plans to hold its annual shareholder meeting later this spring, but no specific date has yet been set.