QXL admits ricardo.de deal still up in the air

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The Independent Online

QXL.com, the online auctioneer, tried to reassure the market yesterday over its shaky deal with ricardo.de, a German rival, but admitted that the takeover may yet collapse.

QXL.com, the online auctioneer, tried to reassure the market yesterday over its shaky deal with ricardo.de, a German rival, but admitted that the takeover may yet collapse.

The comments came as QXL said it had struck a deal with NTL, the country's largest cable operator, to offer its services on NTL platforms from autumn. Jim Rose, QXL chief executive, said: "As the first auction house to join the interactive TV revolution in the UK, we're giving more consumers access to the most entertaining and efficient e-commerce service available."

On the future of the ricardo takeover, Mr Rose told reporters after the company's annual meeting: "I'd very much like the [ricardo] deal to go ahead. But we can't say yet where things will go. I hope that we can say something within a week. We don't want the uncertainty to drag on."

The problems came to light last Thursday, when QXL said it had received "certain information" from ricardo since the deal was signed in May and it was looking again at the move.

The uncertainty appeared to provoke little interest at the AGM however: the company said only one shareholder turned up. The all-paper deal for ricardo, valued in May at £627m, would be the largest internet acquisition in Europe.

NTL says its services connect 22 million homes, 5.6 million of which enjoy access to its high-speed broadband network.

Shares in QXL dipped 2p to 57p, an all-time low, valuing the group at £228m.

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