Shopsmart links up with US giants

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The Independent Online

Two members of the Gestetner family, which developed an early version of the photocopier more than 100 years ago, have secured a significant boost to their internet shopping service by winning the backing of America Online and Wal-Mart.

Two members of the Gestetner family, which developed an early version of the photocopier more than 100 years ago, have secured a significant boost to their internet shopping service by winning the backing of America Online and Wal-Mart.

Daniel Gestetner, 29, and his 26-year-old brother Leo are great grandsons of David Gestetner who developed the Gestetner Duplicator machine in 1889. They have been running the Shopsmart online price comparison service for the past two years.

Shopsmart claims to have been the first UK website to offer comparison shopping on the internet, having started the service in April last year. Its search engine checks the Web for the best prices for books, videos, DVDs and computer games. Shopsmart earns part of its revenues from commissions from retailers which pay to feature on its service. Critics yesterday questioned whether customers would regard the service as genuinely impartial now that it is part owned by Wal-Mart.

Under the terms of yesterday's deal, AOL and Wal-Mart will take a 22.5 per cent in the business with Wal-Mart taking 14 per cent and AOL the other 8.5 per cent. The deal is thought to value Shopsmart at £100m-£150m with a stock market float possible later this year.

Shopsmart, which claims to have 600,000 registered users, receives no cash from the deal. Instead it will receive marketing support with Wal-Mart promoting the service in Asda's stores in the UK and the Wal-Mart outlets in Germany.

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