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News International invests in UK online retailer


News International Ltd., the UK newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp (NWSa.N: Quote, Profile, Research), has made its first investment in a standalone e-commerce site with the acquisition of a stake in, the companies said on Friday. is the British subsidiary of privately held, one of France's leading fashion websites. The French site's financial backers include Banexi Ventures Partners and CDC Entreprises, a unit of state bank Caisse des Depots.

Terms were not disclosed.

Brandalley founder and Chief Executive Sven Lung said the deal was a historic opportunity for the three-year-old French company as the UK e-commerce market at around 40 billion pounds ($79.46 billion) was four times larger than the French market.

"The UK market is very difficult for foreign companies to penetrate. We already tried once at the beginning of 2006. With this agreement we think we have a real chance of success," Lung told Reuters in a telephone interview from London.

He said the venture was targeting sales of around 100 million pounds "in a few years".

Brandalley France offers members-only sales, known as ventes privees, of branded retailers' goods, discounted end of season goods and also virtual shop corners which brands themselves can manage. It has around 1.8 million regular visitors and ships around 45,000 articles a month.

Lung said the UK website would focus just on members-only sales with the aim of building a community of 4 to 5 million users, helped by advertising through News International newspapers such as The Times and partner websites.

"In France there are about 80 companies (offering ventes privees). In the UK today there are no competitors," he said.

In a statement, News International Group Managing Director Clive Milner said: "We are confident that, together with News International's backing and consumer reach, we can create a great business in a rapidly growing sector."




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