WH Smith has committed itself to a future in cyberspace with the acquisition of Helcion Publishing Group for #5.6 million.
The high street stationers is to use Helcion?s reference material, which includes Hutchinson Encyclopedia, as part of an ecommerce strategy that has boosted its share price in the last couple of weeks.
Last year WH Smith paid #9 million for The Internet Bookshop, which now goes under the name bookshop.co.uk. The company is expected to role the online book store into one site, promoting the ?Smith? brand and selling books, together with CDs, videos and ecommerce services - such as guides to the Internet.
Chief executive Richard Handover confirmed that WH Smith plans to grow its Internet business, "in a way that will be complimentary to our retail stores." He declined, however, to provide any details.
Analysts have already speculated that WH Smith is considering launching a competitor to Dixons? Freeserve Internet service provider, that said last week it had 900,000 customers.
In 1992 Helcion was bought out by its management from the Hutchinson reference division of Random House. Boasting Microsoft as a 23 per cent shareholder, it publishes educational and reference books in print and electronic form. The CD-Rom version of Hutchinson Encyclopedia is a rival to Micrsoft?s Encarta CD-Rom encyclopedia.
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