Overture to buy FAST Web search unit

One week after announcing its intention to buy Web search mainstay AltaVista Co., Overture Services Inc. is buying the Web search unit of Fast Search & Transfer ASA (FAST) of Oslo for US$70 million in cash.

The deal, expected to close in April, also includes up to US$30 million in incentive payments over three years, according to a statement released Tuesday by Overture, based in Pasadena, California.

The acquisition will add FAST's products and services to Overture's existing Web search portfolio, including the FAST Web Search algorithmic search product, the AllltheWeb.com Web site and the FAST PartnerSite paid inclusion services.

Overture plans to tie together those products and services with its existing products, creating a suite of offerings including paid placement, paid inclusion and Web search features for Web portals, Internet service providers and other sites.

Overture is also hoping the new products and services will sweeten the pot for the 80,000 advertisers it serves, providing new tools and online real estate through which to reach customers, the company said.

The FAST Web Search and AlltheWeb.com properties will join Overture's most recent acquisition, AltaVista.

Despite some feature overlap between FAST and AltaVista, Overture said that FAST Web Search's flexible and scalable architecture will complement AltaVista's strengths in text analysis, antispam, duplicate search listing removal and clustering, a strategy to improve search result relevancy.

Overture will use both the FAST and AltaVista sites to refine its products. AlltheWeb.com will continue as a test site for advanced search technology, where the public can test new features before those are deployed in production for Overture's customers.

AltaVista.com will be used, in a similar fashion, to refine new product implementations and presentation, according to Overture.

Together, the new sites will also provide Overture's paid placement and paid inclusion customers with more choices and a wider audience for their Web sites.

Paid placement services allow organizations to pay to have their Web sites returned as a result for certain searches. Paid inclusion services allow organizations to pay a fee to ensure that their Web sites are rapidly and frequently indexed by the search engine's Web crawler, making it more likely to appear, alongside other sites, in search results.

Overture intends to enhance FAST's inclusion products and provide advertisers with consolidated reporting and billing for its paid placement and inclusion products, the company said.

Founded in 1997, FAST has operations in Norway, Germany, the U.S, the U.K. and Japan. As part of the deal, FAST will retain the usage rights for intellectual property related to its enterprise search technology, Overture said.

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