B-to-B: The Anytime Story Snack

At a time of year when contemplation is

fashionable, reporters should be thankful for the rise of business-to-business

e-commerce, which has taken the place of consumer shopping as an evergreen

topic, bless its unglamorous little heart.

On its, ahem, still-evolving Web site, CNBC pointed out that, aside from efficiency, price transparency is also driving b-to-b. Net shoppers can easily peruse juicy price and availability details that middlemen used to hoard. All the newfangled technology makes it fairly easy to rig up an online center. Even better, marketing costs will be cheaper, according to Credit Suisse First Boston Director James Marks. But b-to-b is a volume business, and Marks says only one or two of the plays will end up winners. "[T]he rest will be worth nothing," he told CNBC for its bland two-parter on the subject. The second installment offered an overly general look at stocks like Ariba, CommerceOne and FreeMarkets. Consider this rundown of specialty player Chemdex: "Since going public last summer, the company's stock continues to rise. As a vertical player in a niche market, it must now duel with SciQuest.com, which went public in November." Not much for a Net stock follower to go on, is it?

For its turn on the b-to-b-go-round, Fortune took a bullish peek at Internet Capital Group. With a stock price of $112, ICG's monster $30 billion market cap represents 40 percent of b-to-b, according to Fortune. (Since the article was published, the company's stock has only fattened, rising to $169). Reporter Erick Schonfeld likes ICG but cautioned that the holding company, which focuses exclusively on b-to-b - with 13 IPOs in the pipeline - remains vulnerable to swings in the niche.

Forbes didn't wait around for a news hook on which to hang its sunny report on Intelisys Electronic Commerce, which seeks the throne of biz-to-small-biz.

"Though revenues have yet to hit $10 million, O'Connor's plan for Intelisys - 'to be the AOL of b-to-b' - is not an impossible dream." Not with press like this.

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More about AOLAribaCapital GroupChemdexCNBCCommerceOneCredit SuisseCredit Suisse First BostonICGInternet Capital GroupSciQuest

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