Report: $1.5tr in e-biz by 2004

Goldman, Sachs & Co. paints a bullish picture of the future of online business -- predicts Oracle and SAP will be big winners.

Investment banking firm Goldman, Sachs & Co. Thursday said it expects a five-year $1.5tr boom in business-to-business e-commerce in industries ranging from automobiles to medical equipment.

In a report on the sector, Goldman says that the retail sector, with sites like Yahoo! and eBay, has got most of the attention, but the business-oriented side "is poised for equally explosive growth".

Goldman, which has been one of the most active bankers in bringing Internet companies public, said it sees the $1.5tr total being reached by 2004, and it already estimates that businesses generated $39bn from e-commerce applications last year and $114bn this year. "Many companies have already been huge beneficiaries of online growth, mainly through using the Internet as a new medium for product distribution and customer interaction," said Goldman.

Within many companies, information technology managers, whose main concern in the past has been automating corporate services, have increasingly become "vocal proponents" of spending on corporate Web sites and online marketing. In the rush to build this e-commerce infrastructure, the IT managers are looking to outside technology providers. Small business will also be "an important driver of the B2B market", Goldman said, citing their growing need to operate in an e-commerce environment.

Among companies mentioned in the report who may be poised to benefit from the growth of business to business e-commerce are well known traditional high-tech firms like Oracle, SAP and newcomers like VerticalNet, Ariba and Healtheon. The report, written by a team of analysts led by Rakesh Sood, says companies that build the e-commerce infrastructure will benefit from the growth of e-commerce, as will companies that conduct business over the Web.

The prime industries targeted for the business-to-business growth are computer hardware and software; aerospace/defence; electronics; chemicals; motor vehicles and parts and medical equipment and transport.

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