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SEB becoming third-largest owner of newly formed Internet company

SEB is investing SEK 415 M in b-business partners, which is taking stakes in companies that conduct business-to-business (B2B) commerce via the Internet.

SEB, together with Investor and ABB, is among the largest owners of b-business partners, a Europe-based venture group formed today with a share capital of slightly more than SEK 8 billion. The company will invest in -- and develop -- business-to-business e-commerce (E-B2B),a rapidly growing market.

b-business partners, based in Holland, will take the initiative in establishing and investing in new e-business companies. The company will be among the largest of its type in Europe and public listing of its shares is planned within three years. One of the objectives is to build networks linking the "new economy" and traditional companies, with Europe as a field for investment.

SEB is well in the forefront in providing financial services via the network. SEB started its Internetbank as early as 1996 and today has 400,000 customers, 25 percent of the total in SEB. The Bank is a world leader in providing companies with tools that enable them to conduct currency, interest and futures transactions on the network via Trading Station. SEB currently has approximately 30,000 companies that conduct their banking transactions via the Internet bank.

Because SEB was among the first to appreciate the advantages offered by the Internet, the Bank now has more knowledge in this field than other players. SEB wants to take advantage of this situation and, to further consolidate its position, it is investing nearly half a billion kronor in b-business partners.

"SEB is joining this joint venture because we know that business-to-business commerce will increase sharply," says Lars Thunell, president and chief executive officer, SEB. "With our advantage of being the first in Internet banking, we want to share our knowledge, as well as the experience of our partners and other investors, in order to become even more effective."

According to estimates, the European network-based business-to-business market will grow from approximately SEK 400 billion today to slightly more than SEK 11,500 billion in 2003.

In addition to Investor and ABB, each of which is contributing SEK 2.5 billion, and SEB, which is investing SEK 415 M, the following companies are also participating in b-business partners: Astra Zeneca, Atlas Copco, Electrolux, Saab, Sandvik, StoraEnso and WM-data. The necessary approvals are being sought from the Financial Supervisory Authority.