IPC stakes £26m on Web venture

Magazine publisher IPC is ploughing up to £26m into an Internet project, under the working title IPC Electric, to capture the new wave of women surfers who shop and browse online.

IPC is understood to have gained City backing for IPC Electric, which is thought to be launching at the end of the year.

A strong Internet brand is likely to add a premium to the price of IPC when the company floats in the next two years. IPC secured a Cinven-backed £860m management buyout in December 1997.

IPC chairman David Arculus admits the company is working on a project called IPC Electric but refuses to comment further.

The online pages are expected to feature specialist editorial based on glossy magazine brands within the IPC stable which include Marie Claire, Living etc and Loaded.

New Internet brand titles or channels are likely to be included. They will generate sales from a diverse range of products and services which could include home furnishings, cars, clothes, electronics, cosmetics and lingerie from companies which strike deals with IPC Electric.

The company could also offer free e-mail in return for readers’ demographic information.

A source close to the company says: “Women are the next big wave of Internet surfers and you only have to look at US versions (of Websites) to understand what they have to offer. There’s massive potential for it (IPC).”

Hearst Corporation’s portal site, women.com, is already well established in the States and offers shopping opportunities as well as chat forums and e-mail services.

The site also includes online versions of NatMags’ existing titles, such as Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping, as well as specialist channels encompassing money, shopping, travel and technology.

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