3i backs just-sites buy-out

Canadian IT company GEAC Computer spins off its business information service.

3i, a leading European venture capitalist, revealed today it will take a 25% stake in just-sites.com. 3i's £2m (E3.2m) investment is part of a management buy-out of the business information service from its parent GEAC Computer, a Canadian systems and software company.

CEO Allan Davies says just-site will use the capital injection to develop and market its four, year-old, industry portal sites: just-auto.com covering automotive issues; just-style.com focussing on clothing, footwear and textiles; just-food.com covering food; and just-drinks.com for the beverage industry.

General access to the sites is free, but users must pay for a wide range of specialist information products provided by just-sites' industry partners, who include IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Davies insists just-sites' business model is more sustainable than other industry portal services like Netimperative.com, which almost collapsed two weeks ago when its original backers pulled the plug on additional funding, before it was rescued by overseas investors.

“Unlike many other dot.com businesses, we have taken a hard-headed, traditional business approach to all our ventures,” Davies said.

“Our marketing costs are proportionate to a sound business plan – and our current revenue – and as a result we predict monthly profitability within 18 months.

“The buyout provides us with the resources to build just-sites into a leading global brand and increase substantially the substance and value of our content.”

The deal – supported by Arthur Andersen, Barclays and Wragge Co. – shows the lure of the fast-growing business-to-business online information market, predicted to reach $40bn in size by 2004, is continuing to attract investors despite fears about dot.com business in general.

Under the deal, just sites' management team will become majority owners of the company, but GEAC retains a significant shareholding.