At Home to Acquire Excite in Mega-Internet Deal

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NEW YORK (AP) -- High-speed Internet provider At Home is buying Excite, one of the leading destinations on the World Wide Web, for about $6.7 billion in stock in the largest Internet acquisition ever. If completed, the deal announced Tuesday would surpass America Online's $4.2 billion purchase of Netscape Communications last fall.

Based on closing stock prices Friday, Excite was worth about $3.4 billion, meaning At Home would pay nearly double the market valuation of the company. In trading Tuesday, Excite stock soared 42 1/2 to 110. At Home rose 13 3/8 to 115 3/8. The acquisition speeds a move by the Internet's main Web destinations to pair with larger partners, particularly sellers of services that speed up navigation of the Internet and help overcome its bottlenecks. A big beneficiary of Tuesday's deal would be AT&T, which after completing its acquisition of Tele-Communications, At Home's major shareholder, gets control of one of the highly sought-after portals that serve as entry points onto the Internet. In further evidence of the trend Tuesday, Snap, another major Internet destination, announced an agreement for a version of its portal to be carried by major high-speed Internet providers, including GTE and Bell Atlantic. At Home, which provides speedy Internet access through cable-TV lines to 330,000 homes, is also owned by Cox Communications and several other investors. AT&T's $39 billion takeover of cable-TV company TCI is expected to be completed before the close of At Home's acquisition of Excite, anticipated in about three months. Tuesday's acquisition is the largest purchase of a company doing most of its business over the Internet, according to Securities Data, a Newark, N.J. research firm specializing in mergers and acquisitions. AT&T Chief Executive Michael Armstrong has stated he wants to use At Home as a conduit for delivering a wide range of communications services, including electronic commerce. Control over Excite, which has a search engine and links to several online shopping sites, would certainly enhance that goal. Excite, which has lagged behind other Web-site companies such as Yahoo!, accelerated its search for a larger partner after the AOL- Netscape deal last November narrowed the field of potential matches, Excite Chief Executive George Bell said in a telephone interview Tuesday morning. …