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CMGI, others form $1.5 billion venture fund

The Net investment firm is teaming with two firms to start a $1.5 billion venture capital partnership to tap the growing global Internet market.

    Net investment firm CMGI today said it is teaming with two firms to start a $1.5 billion venture capital partnership to tap the growing global Internet market.

    CMGI plans to join with Hicks Muse Tate & Furst and Pacific Century CyberWorks to form @Ventures Global Partners. The new firm will work to develop Internet companies in Asia, Europe and the Americas.

    With the growth of the Internet already maturing and slowing in the United States, American companies are beginning to look overseas, where new technology, telecommunications deregulation and increased investing have helped spur Web use in Asia, Europe and Latin America.

    Internet usage is still limited in Asia, stymied by high costs and infrastructure problems. Yet research company Yankee Group says the number of people using the Internet is expected to grow to more than 12 percent of the population--nearly 374 million--by the end of 2005.

    Market research firm International Data Corp. forecasts that countries in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, will have about 21.8 million people connected to the Net by the end of 2000. Those people are expected to spend $2.2 billion in e-commerce transactions, the group said.

    In January, CMGI and Hong Kong-based Pacific Century formed a joint venture to create online businesses focused on the growing Asian market.

    In Europe, the number of homes connected to the Net nearly doubled in 1998 to 15 million from 8.2 million in 1997, according to Dataquest. In 1998, the number of European homes reached levels seen only a year earlier in the United States, higher than initial forecasts, the group found.

    E-commerce players such as Priceline.com, eBay, eToys and Amazon.com have already made the leap to foreign shores, while content companies such as America Online, Yahoo and Lycos have started regional portals overseas.

    Online brokerages such as E*Trade and Ameritrade have also cut deals to establish themselves in several European and Asian countries.

    Under the terms of today's partnership, CMGI, Hicks and Pacific Century will each commit up to $500 million to help develop companies involved in content, community, e-commerce and infrastructure technologies.

    The three companies will initially open offices in London and Hong Kong. They plan to appoint managing partners in each location to actively support the investment activities and organizational development of these ventures.

    Pacific Century is owned by Richard Li, who just yesterday acquired Cable & Wireless Hong Kong. At the time, CMGI announced an agreement with Cable & Wireless to issue $500 million in shares of CMGI to Cable & Wireless in exchange for $500 million in shares of Pacific Century.