FAST Deals Reshape Search Sector

Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) has dipped into its cash reserves to buy the AltaVista enterprise search business from Overture Services .

The value of the deal, the latest in a rapidly consolidating industry, was not disclosed. Overture obtained the enterprise search business as part of the acquisition of the business of AltaVista, in late April.

FAST’s interest in the AltaVista unit is its 200 corporate customers, including Kraft Foods, Barnes & Noble, Monster.com, and Fidelity Investments.

FAST will support the current AltaVista platform “for the foreseeable future,” spokesman Peter Gorman told internetnews.com.

“However, as these customers look to improve upon their current search platform, we will encourage them to migrate to FAST Data Search,” Gorman added.

About five AltaVista employees will join FAST to support existing customers.

FAST’s software features advanced linguistics, categorization, dynamic result clustering, and support for 225 file formats and 54 languages. It’s aimed at key industries: financial services; government and intelligence; media and publishing; life sciences and pharmaceuticals; and e-commerce and portal applications.

FAST, based in Oslo, Norway, with U.S. offices in Wellesley, Mass., doesn’t expect any significant impact on the 2003 revenues nor costs from this acquisition.

Today’s deal is indicative of the asset swapping between search firms this year as they decide to focus on either Web or enterprise search.

Besides buying AltaVista for $140 million in April, Overture also paid $70 million in cash for the FAST’s Web search unit. FAST has been tight-lipped about what it planned to do with the cash infusion.

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