Moneyextra sells website to Bristol & West for £26m

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The Independent Online

Moneyextra, the financial services provider that was in the vanguard of internet flotations last year, said yesterday that fierce competition had forced it to sell its consumer portal.

Moneyextra, the financial services provider that was in the vanguard of internet flotations last year, said yesterday that fierce competition had forced it to sell its consumer portal.

The company, which was one of the first to offer online financial services in the UK, will sell moneyextra.com to Bristol & West for £26m cash. The site offers consumers savings and investments from a range of providers.

Paul Lindsey, chief executive of the Moneyextra group, denied that the sale of the site, which cost £32m to develop, marked a failure to succeed in the consumer market.

But he admitted competition and the costs of developing a business to consumer (B2C) brand had led to yesterday's deal, which will be followed by similar sales of Moneyextra's consumer businesses in the rest of Europe. Mr Lindsey said: "As more and more well-funded financial services organisations arrived, we realised that a large amount of funding would have been required to build and maintain a European brand."

The sale of moneyextra.com follows a dramatic fall in Moneyextra's share price, which peaked at 353p in December. Yesterday, shares closed down 1p at 30p.

The disposal marks a major shift for the company, which said it would now concentrate on business to business (B2B) activities, which will enable insurance and other financial services companies to automate distribution of new business and to service existing policies.

The move will be powered by the company's acquisition, also announced yesterday, of Crisp Computing for £29.4m in shares and loan notes. Crisp, which saw earnings of £2.8m this year, specialises in providing software to the personal finance industry, with clients including Axa and Lloyds TSB.

Moneyextra said the deal would build on its B2B business, which enables independent financial advisers to access online real-time quotations and research. Following both deals, Moneyextra will change its name to Exchange FS.

Mr Lindsey said: "We see the B2B sector as the place for real growth in the future."

Analysts said the repositioning would create more value for shareholders.

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