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BT buys retail e-commerce outfit

The purchase of Fresca will give BT greater expertise in the fashion and general merchandise e-commerce sectors
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

BT has bought Fresca, a specialist retail e-commerce service provider, as part of a wider strategy to position itself as an IT services company.

According to a statement released on Friday, the acquisition will help BT Expedite — the company's e-commerce division — "provide a seamless multi-channel shopping experience for retail customers".

Fresca, based in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, provides managed and hosted e-commerce services, mainly to retailers like Habitat, Oasis and Harvey Nichols. Although the terms of the acquisition have not been made public, Fresca — which was founded in 2000 — had £850,000 in assets as at 31 March, 2007.

"We are delighted with the acquisition of Fresca," said Helen Slaven, chief executive of BT Expedite, on Friday. "Through its existing products, Fresca gives BT Expedite a full suite of solutions to support multi-channel retailing. Fresca brings to us a strong product set and one of the sector's leading experts in online retailing."

Speaking to ZDNet.co.uk on Monday, Slaven said that none of Fresca's 39 employees would be laid off, and BT intended to grow the team over the next couple of years. "Fresca has got one of the strongest e-commerce platforms in the marketplace today and a very strong management team," she said, adding that BT Expedite would now be able to offer retailers expertise ranging from traditional merchandising technology to a fully transactional web presence.

Fresca's managing director, Sarah Hughes, said on Friday that the company was "delighted" to have been bought by BT. "From our earliest discussions with Helen and her colleagues at BT Expedite, the benefits of an acquisition by BT were clear for both our customers and employees," she said. "We look forward to working as part of BT in strengthening its e-commerce offering in the retail market."

Although it has traditionally been a telecommunications provider, BT has, in recent years, moved towards becoming a general IT services company. The Fresca buyout is just the latest in a string of acquisitions BT has made to further this strategy.

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