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Netscape Communications Corp thinks electronic commerce is a chink Microsoft Corp’s armor, and has bought out General Electric Information Services’ 50% interest in their Actra Business Systems LLC joint venture for the equivalent of $56.1m to make a run at Redmond in this space. Netscape doesn’t seem to acknowledge Microsoft Site Server as a serious business-to- business offering and is going to go gangbusters with the CommerceXpert suite of five e-commerce products. Netscape is issuing 1.7 million shares to General Electric Co’s GEIS division worth $33 each at Thursday’s closing price, a further 600,000 shares and options worth $19.8m are to be issued to Actra employees. GEIS says this amounts to a significant return on its unspecified initial investment. Actra, created in April 1996 (CI No 2,890), and its 200 employees will form a new Netscape application product division. GEIS, now focused on selling vertical solutions will continue to provide integration services and market the Actra products in addition to Netscape. Netscape will record an R&D write-off to account for the purchase which, expected to close this quarter, will knock a penny off the company’s fourth quarter earnings which analysts surveyed by First Call expect to be around $0.15. Netscape sold its interest in its Navio network computer joint venture to Oracle Corp for around $60m back in May (CI No 3,164).

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