QXL, Ricardo.de Merger in Question

BERLIN (08/16/2000) - Online auction operator QXL.com PLC is maintaining its silence over rumors that its planned merger with German competitor Ricardo.de AG is close to collapse.

QXL spokeswoman Annabel Dangerfield said Wednesday she hopes the matter will be settled "in the next few days. We're in renegotiations, talking to them," she said. "We're hopeful that it will be sooner rather than later."

The two companies announced the merger in May, saying QXL would trade 42.6 of its shares for each Ricardo share, in a deal worth some US$1 billion, a premium of 27 percent for Ricardo shareholders at the time. Ricardo trumpeted the new entity as "by far Europe's largest online auction house,and one of the largest e-commerce companies on the continent."

But Ricardo's shares have plummeted in value since May on speculation that the company faced financial woes. Its stock stood at 28.91 euros (US$26.39) on Wednesday afternoon, down from 99.5 euros at the time the merger was announced, and barely above the year low of 27.11 euros.

QXL issued a terse statement last week, saying it had "received certain information" from Ricardo, and that QXL's board of directors "is evaluating the implications of this information on the proposed transaction."

A Ricardo spokesman did not immediately return phone calls.

QXL.com, in London, can be reached at +44-208-962-700 or via the Web at http://www.qxl.com/. Ricardo.de, in Hamburg, Germany, can be reached at +49-40-306-35200 or at http//www.ricardo.de/.

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