Barclays in £10m Freeserve talks

Barclays Bank is in discussions with Dixons’ Internet portal Freeserve over the appointment of an agency to handle an estimated £10m marketing budget for a new Internet venture.

Business development executives from both companies have been appointed to set up a team to run the venture.

The team, members of which neither party will name, is to investigate how to market the new service – a Web portal devoted solely to small- and medium-sized businesses which is expected to launch in May.

It will also oversee the appointment of senior executives, including marketing personnel.

Freeserve owns a 60 per cent stake, and Barclays a 40 per cent stake, in the venture, at a cost of £10m each. The two companies hope it will become the country’s biggest business-focused Web portal.

Plans for a European roll-out are being considered.

The service, which has still to be named, will be initially promoted in Barclays branches and on Freeserve. Dixons’ network of electrical stores may also be used.

A Barclays spokeswoman says: “We will start with promotions within our branch network, on Freeserve, and possibly through print and poster work. The venture will need a marketing director, and when we get one we may look closer at ad agencies.”

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