Excite@Home, Intel sell stakes in @Home Benelux

Dutch cable company Essent Kabelcom BV said Thursday that it has bought the minority stakes in Internet service provider (ISP) @Home Benelux BV held by Excite@Home and Intel.

Together, Excite@Home and Intel held about 20 percent of the shares in the company that provides high-speed Internet access to about 80,000 customers on the network of Essent Kabelcom in the Netherlands. The cable company now owns little over 90 percent of @Home Benelux, said @Home Benelux Chief Executive Officer Nils Kijkuit.

The two U.S. companies invested in the Dutch company in late 1998. The shares were held in a single holding. In October 1998 Essent Kabelcom said that Intel, through its investment arm Intel Capital, had invested about US$18 million in @Home Benelux. No financial details were disclosed on Thursday.

The buyout is not related to Excite@Home's current financial woes, stressed Kijkuit, but was triggered by changes on the Dutch cable Internet service market.

"When @Home Benelux was launched we thought it good to have a joint venture in which other cable companies could participate. However, the market has consolidated and there are only a few large cable companies that all have full ownership of their cable Internet services," Kijkuit said.

@Home Benelux will continue to license technology from Excite@Home and is confident that the U.S. company will overcome its problems.

"I can't imagine that the technology that's being used by (about) 4 million people will be lost," Kijkuit said.

The sale of Intel's stake fits in with the strategy of Intel Capital, the company said.

"Intel has a strong interest in promoting high-speed Internet access, that is the original reason for the investment by Intel Capital. Once the objective is achieved, Intel Capital sells its holdings," said Amy Kehoe, a spokeswoman for Intel in Europe. She declined to say whether Intel made a profit from the investment.

Essent Kabelcom is looking to buy the remaining 10 percent of @Home Benelux shares. Various small investors currently hold these shares, a spokesman said.

After the sale of its stake in @Home Benelux, Excite@Home has two international cable Internet joint ventures remaining in the Asia/Pacific region.

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