is planting its digital flag in Japan with a joint launch of a service there, the company announced tonight.
In the escalating fight among search engines, Excite is hoping that its alliance with Itochu Corporation gives it a push ahead in what it describes as the second largest Internet market.
Excite and Itochu--described as the world's fourth largest company in the world as measured by sales--will jointly launch localized Excite services, where they hope to sell ads both locally and internationally.
Many other Internet companies have preceded Excite overseas, including one of its biggest competitors, Yahoo. The alliance is also typical in that it is a 50-50 venture. Excite executives are counting on the alliance to give the company the expertise it needs to break into the Japanese market.
For the search engine, an increasingly hot market for the eyeballs of users, every little bit helps. In this case, it just might be more than a little.
"The Japanese market, we think, is going to be very significant internationally after you get away from the United States," said Bob Hood, chief financial officer of Excite.
Excite actually launched a skeletal Japanese service a few weeks ago, he added. But with this alliance, the search engine company plans to build a comprehensive site where it can make money by selling ads in one of the most promising markets around.
"Yahoo's had a head start internationally, so we certainly feel the pressure to get going, " Hood said.
Dai Nippon Printing will own a minority stake in the joint venture. Itochu Techno-Science Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Itochu and the largest computer distributor in Japan, will also own a minority stake in the deal.
"Itochu's business strategy is to partner with leading companies around the world," Eizo Kobayashi, general manager at Itochu Corporation, said in a written statement. "When we evaluated potential Internet media partners, we quickly realized that Excite was the right partner because of the company's leading brand and market presence. We are confident that Excite's brand and services will successfully extend into the Japanese marketplace."