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uDate.com sells to USA Interactive in £93m deal

LONDON – The UK's most profitable internet company uDate.com has been bought by USA Interactive, the American group controlled by Barry Diller, for around £93.6m in an all-stock deal.

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USA Interactive said it would use the acquisition to boost the reach of its own online dating service Match.com. The move coincides with uDate's efforts to establish itself in the US. Earlier this month, it appointed PR firm Stanton Crenshaw Communications to handle consumer marketing and corporate communications in the US.

Stanton Crenshaw was briefed to focus on growing the company's public profile in the US, separate from what it feels is already an established online presence.

According to uDate, 76% of its business comes from the US. In 2000, uDate ended its existing relationship with Stanton Crenshaw when it decided to focus on its UK operations. In the interim, uDate worked on a project basis with Hill & Knowlton on US strategy issues.

In October, uDate hired the tech PR agency Gnash Communications to promote its online dating service ahead of a big marketing drive next year.

uDate has 11m members worldwide, with 225,000 active subscribers, and is benefiting from the increased willingness of singletons to turn to the internet in an effort to find a partner. The company reported net profit of $2m (£1.3m) for the second quarter of 2002.

The company was founded in the UK and is based in Derby. It claims to have members from almost every country in the world. In February this year, it bought the US dating service Kiss.com for $17m.

Last year, Diller sold his USA Networks business to Vivendi Universal and, as part of the deal, Diller retained control of the interactive assets of USA Networks, which include Ticketmaster and the Home Shopping Network.

Vivendi paid $10.3bn for the entertainment arm of USA Networks, which will create a new movie and television business for the Franco-American media empire.

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