Women's Web sites consolidate as iVillage buys Women.com

Two well-known Web sites that focus on women's issues will now be one as iVillage Inc. said yesterday that it's acquiring rival Women.com Networks Inc. in a $47 million deal.

Under the deal, New York-based iVillage Inc., whose iVillage Network division operates iVillage.com, Lamaze Publishing and the Newborn Channel, will buy Women.com for $27 million in stock and $250,000 in cash, according to Carl Fischer, an iVillage spokesman. As of Friday, iVillage's stock was valued at $1.69 per share. Women.com stock will be exchanged for iVillage stock at a rate of .322 shares of iVillage stock for each Women.com share, he said.

Also under the deal, iVillage will partner with the Hearst Corp., which owns about 46% of Women.com and publishes a host of women's magazines. Hearst will buy $20 million in iVillage stock and will spend up to an additional $20 million over the next three years with iVillage to help with Hearst's Web sites and for advertising on the iVillage sites.

The new company will continue to use the iVillage name, Fischer said, though a final decision has not been made on how to include Women.com. "We might run with the two brands," he said. "It's not entirely sure."

The transaction will be competed in the second quarter, he said. IVillage has about 310 employees, while Women.com has about 250 employees, he said. No information is available on whether there will be layoffs, Fischer said.

"This acquisition strengthens the competitive position of iVillage, increasing its traffic and attractiveness to new sponsors," said Doug McCormick, chairman and CEO of the new company, in a statement. "By combining the two top players in the online women's space, we are creating the most comprehensive destination to meet the everyday needs of women online."

McCormick called Hearst's investment "a clear affirmation of their belief in iVillage and the viability of the online women's space."

In a statement, the company said that the merger "creates the critical mass for additional revenue streams, including digital subscription services, as well as provides further opportunities to monetize iVillage's user base."

Women.com, founded in 1992 and based in San Mateo, Calif., features some of the most widely read women's magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Prevention.

Last July, iVillage shed its iBaby online retailing business to rival Babygear.com to focus on its core women's Web site (see story). However, Babygear shut down in December as part of the continuing retrenchment among dot-com ventures aimed at consumers (see story).

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