Indom, leader of domain names in France, is bought by its British counterpart in the latest ceding of French control online

One French web success sold abroad flickr

Nicolas Rauline

PARIS - The list grows longer. After a Japanese purchase of France's e-commerce site PriceMinister and Axel Springer's takeover bid for Paris-based real estate portal Seloger.com, French domain-name manager Indom has been bought by a foreign competitor.

Counting half the top-listed "CAC 40" French corporations as customers, Indom, founded in 1999, was sold last week for 16.9 million euros to its bigger British counterpart, the NBT Group.

The latest news comes after German publishing behemoth Axel Springer made a public offer last month for the fast-growing French property website company SeLoger.com. That followed the June sale of another online success story in France, PriceMinister, for an estimated 200 million euros to Japanese retail giant Rakuten.

"Without a doubt, France has been slow. For years, we have lacked support from the business community here," says Stéphane Van Gelder, co-founder of Indom, who is now director of of NBT Group, France. "It's changing, but it will be difficult to catch up, especially compared to the Anglo-Saxons."

Indom's three co-founders had a majority share in the company, while AXA Private Equity held a 15% stake. "Our intention was to give Indom true strength," says Van Gelder. "With this operation, we join the European leader. For us, it was impossible to continue to grow while remaining all-French."

NBT Group, one of the pioneers of the Internet in Britain, was founded in 1995. It has gradually expanded its activities to now include such areas as registration of domain names, hosting and so-called "e-reputation" brand building. Well-established through Europe, but also present in the United States, NBT employs 300 people and reached a turnover of 49 million euros in the 2009-2010 fiscal year ended Sept. 30. For its part, Indom should post a turnover of just under 8 million this year.

Indom plans to continue to focus on its core business. "For the moment, there are no plans to do anything beyond than business services sector " says Van Gelder. NBT Group will benefit from Indom's work on developing new extensions linked directly to brand names such as ".cannon" and city names such as ".paris'. Van Gelder was elected head of the GNSO body of Icann (the association in charge of domain names) that is studying how to create these new extensions.

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