Retail giant Kingfisher is looking to conquer the continent, before it hits the UK's already overcrowded Internet service provider marketplace.
Yesterday Kingfisher joined forces with French Group Arnault to launch a Freeserve clone in France, dubbed Libertysurf.
Kingfisher and Group Arnault could not be further worlds apart in terms of their home markets. Kingfisher owns Woolworths and B & Q and is currently attempting an #18 billion merger with Asda. Group Arnault owns stakes in luxury goods companies Christian Dior and LVMH.
"We have made no secret of the fact we want to go pan-european, whether that includes the UK or not has not been decided," said a spokesperson for Kingfisher.
It is thought that Kingfisher opted to open its free Internet access service in France because it felt the market in the UK is almost saturated.
The UK has an ever expanding number of ISPs all looking to piggyback on the Dixons phenomenally successful Freeserve which is now thought to be worth around #2 billion.
Analysts believe that Kingfisher is well placed to make a major impact in Europe with a free Internet access service as it is already well represented in nine European countries. These include France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Poland, Luxembourg and of course the UK.
Arnault will be supplying much of the content, which will be stylishly put together for the French market, according to sources.
Libertysurf discs will be available at Kingfisher's 163 Darty electrical stores and its 100 Castorama DIY stores throughout France within the next two weeks. There are no plans to make Libertysurf available in Group Arnault's luxury stores, although it may eventually get rolled out in cosmetics retailer Sephora.
Libertysurf will be owned 40 per cent by Kingfisher, 40 per cent by Group Arnault. The remaining 20 per cent will be taken by Pierre Besainou, a supplier of hitech TVs to Darty, which will run Libertysurf.
Source: VNU Newswire
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