Netscape has taken full control of Actra, its Ecommerce joint venture with GE Information Services, buying GEIS' 50% stake for a bargain $56 million (#33.13 million). GEIS, the services arm of General Electric, said it has made a substantial gain on its initial investment in the venture, which was set up a year ago, while Netscape said Actra's business-to-business commerce solutions are vital to its future. Netscape maintains that Actra has the best Internet commerce product available but the company has been valued below expectations according to one source. Another source said sales channel conflict between GEIS and Netscape over Actra customers was a factor behind the cut-price deal. GEIS will continue to resell Actra's Commerce Xpert line of Internet commerce software under the stock-based agreement. Netscape's Navigator browser and Communicator suite are losing market share to Microsoft's Internet Explorer and analysts said Netscape is responding to increasing pressure from Microsoft in the browser market. Jim Barksdale, Netscape president and chief executive, claimed: "With this announcement, Netscape is moving further into the enterprise applications business where Microsoft does not compete. This acquisition is a dramatic step in the evolution of Netscape from a browser company into an enterprise solutions company." GEIS president and chief executive Harvey Seegers said his company can now concentrate on integrated service solutions while Netscape works on product development. Actra, which was launched in April 1996, recently announced customer wins including Shell, Hitachi, TNT Logistics and Telefonica. Netscape will hand 1.7 million of its shares to GE, treating the deal as a purchase, but hopes to write off some of the price as in-process research and development. Actra will become a Netscape division under Steve Savignano, who was vice president of engineering and product marketing at Actra.
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