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Research firms eye partnership in business e-commerce

Jupiter Communications and Hoover's plan to get closer to the business-to-business sector with acquisitions and investments.

Add Internet research firms to the list of companies spending millions in the hope of capitalizing on business-to-business e-commerce euphoria.

Jupiter Communications and Hoover's, two major research firms, today announced plans to get closer to the business-to-business sector with acquisitions and investments. New York-based Jupiter plunked down $50.6 million in cash and stock to acquire privately held Internet Research Group and Net Market Makers. Hoover's, which allows businesses to conduct research over the Internet, took a stake in Austin, Texas-based Terms of the investment were not disclosed.

The moves by these research firms come after just about everyone--from venture capitalists, consulting firms and computer giants to traditional corporations--has rushed to plant flags in the sector. The consensus is business-to-business e-commerce will radically change the way companies do business, piling up huge savings by streamlining purchasing and accounting and by selling excess inventory over the Net.

Forrester Research, a research firm already entrenched in the market, predicts that U.S. business-to-business e-commerce will hit $2.7 trillion by 2004, outpacing the growth in the sexier business-to-consumer e-commerce market dominated by names such as, Yahoo and America Online. Forrester projects that consumer spending will reach $184.5 billion in 2004, up from $20.3 billion last year.

The business-to-business sector includes some not-so-famous names, such as eSteel, which sells steel, and Chemdex, which sells laboratory supplies. But well-known companies such as CMGI, Oracle, Electronic Data Systems, Andersen Consulting and IBM have launched venture firms to catch the wave.

The deals announced by Jupiter and Hoover's are significant largely because other companies normally turn to research firms to advise them on the best way to make an impact with a new business division. With the billions of dollars being pumped into business-to-business e-commerce, netting a sliver of the funds is likely to lead to strong gains for these firms.

Jupiter's acquisition of Internet Research Group will allow it to expand its consulting services to the different business models and processes that companies can harness to improve their Internet infrastructure, including security and networking issues. With its acquisition of Net Market Makers, Jupiter gets a company that runs conferences specializing in Internet marketplaces where companies can buy and sell excess inventory and procure supplies at lower prices. Net Market's audience is largely venture capitalists and companies looking to enter the sector.

With its investment in Intellifact, Hoover's will now be able to provide businesses with industry information on its online business network. Intellifact also serves as a clearinghouse where companies can showcase their products and services.