BT to snap up Scoot for a snip

Once valued at £2.5bn, looks likely to be swallowed by BT for a mere £8m

BT announced on Thursday that it has offered to take over for £8m -- some 0.3 percent of the Internet directory service's value at the peak of the dot-com boom.

Scoot, which has been expected to run out of cash this year, has been for sale for some months. If Scoot's shareholders accept BT's offer then the Internet and telephone directory firm will be merged into BT Retail's existing operator and directory services operations -- once the regulations separating directory enquiries and the classified listing markets are relaxed.

As well as paying £5m, BT is also offering to take a further £3m of liabilities. According to BT, it has already secured the support of Scoot shareholders representing 26.3 per cent of the issued share capital of Scoot.

Pierre Danon, chief executive of BT Retail, said he was excited by the purchase. "Scoot has been very successful in developing a comprehensive classified listings database and in establishing a highly efficient classified search engine," he said in a statement. "The Scoot brand is well recognised and highly regarded. We will be making a wider strategy announcement giving further details of BT Retail's directory enquiries strategy in due course."

Scoot -- which once had the financial muscle to buy the advertising newspaper Loot for £190m, before being forced to sell it to the Daily Mail Group Trust just over a year later for just £45m -- has seen its value plummet since the bursting of the dot-com bubble.

The company attracted criticism earlier this month after details emerged of salary and bonus packages paid to Scoot's senior executives. According to The Guardian, five former executive directors were paid a total of over £2m in 2001, despite the collapse in Scoot's value and the losses made on Loot.

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