First-e, Uno-e Online Banks to Merge

LONDON (03/07/2000) - Irish online bank First-e Group PLC yesterday announced its intention to merge with its Spanish counterpart, Uno-e Bank SA, to form a new company called Unofirst Group.

Uno-e's owners, Spanish bank Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) and Internet service provider Terra Networks, will hold 67.5 percent of the new company, and shareholders in Enba PLC, the owner of First-e, will hold the remainder, First-e said in a statement.

In addition to contributing Uno-e to the deal, BBVA and Terra Networks will also pay 291 million euros to Enba shareholders and contribute 362 million euros in cash as capital to the new combined company. Enba, in turn, will contribute First-e to the new group. This puts the total value of the deal at 2.4 billion euros (US$2.3 billion), according to the statement from First-e.

Dublin-based First-e currently has 110,000 registered users in the U.K., 50,000 of which are customers, the company said. Uno-e, which had its pilot launch in mid-February, expects to fully open in the next few days, according to the statement.

Unofirst plans to begin operations in Germany and Portugal by the end of 2000, and thereafter expand into Latin America, the rest of Europe, the U.S. and Asia.

Manuel Galatas, managing director of Uno-e will be appointed executive chairman of Unofirst, while Gerhard Huber, chief executive officer of First-e, will become the CEO of Unofirst Group.

The merger, which is subject to standard conditions and regulatory approvals, is expected to be completed by the end of July 2000.

First-e, in Dublin, can be reached via the Web at http://www.first-e.com/.

Uno-e is a http://www.uno-e.com/.

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