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Chemdex to become Ventro, expand into new markets

    Chemdex Corp. (Nasdaq: CMDX) is about to be re-born as a broad business-to-business company named Ventro, the company said Tuesday. The new company, Ventro Corporation, will begin to trade under a new ticker, VNTR in March.

    Ventro will focus on building and operating the next generation of business-to-business (B2B) vertical marketplace companies. Chemdex currently focuses on life science vertical markets. Ventro will be a publicly traded company that incorporates all of the existing operations of Chemdex and Promedix, the company's second vertical marketplace in specialty medical products. Ventro will use the Chemdex stock symbol, CMDX, until March 1, when this symbol will be replaced by VNTR. The company said no financial transactions are associated with the formation of the new company.

    Though Chemdex, which specializes in e-commerce software for the life sciences industry, roared in its July IPO, it didn't have quite as much star power as B2B companies such as PurchasePro (Nasdaq: PPRO) and Vertical Net (Nasdaq: VERT).

    Ventro is poised to capitalize on the nascent B2B e-commerce industry, which is forecast by the Gartner Group to exceed $7.3 trillion globally by 2004. The number of vertical marketplaces is already over 600, according to Kevin Jones, co-founder and CEO of Net Market Makers, with the majority of them yet to complete their first transaction. Ventro will create these marketplace companies through joint ventures with industry-leading partners or through acquisitions, the company said.

    The formation of Ventro is part of a natural progression of the strategic vision first laid out by the founding management of Chemdex, which will now operate within Ventro, the company said. The Ventro companies currently include Chemdex, Promedix, Industria Solutions and the Ventro-Tenet Healthcare Supply Venture. SpecialtyMD.com, another recent Chemdex acquisition, will also become part of Ventro.

    The current Chemdex management team will become the Ventro management team.

    Last week, Chemdex met analysts' estimates in its fourth quarter, losing $15.3 million, or 49 cents a share, on sales of $19.3 million.

    Chemdex said sales were strong due to an increase in customers, the number of products offered and industry suppliers.

    In the year-ago quarter, it lost $4.4 million, or $2.30 a share, on sales of $26,000.

    For the year, Chemdex lost $48.6 million, or $3.17 a share, compared with a loss of $8.5 million, or $4.79 a share, in the year-ago period.


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