After 18 months of OzEmail control, local Internet hosting company WebCentral has completed a triumphant management buyback and the company is now set to expand its SME offerings into the high-end corporate market.
While he could not divulge details of the current transaction, WebCentral chief executive officer Lloyd Ernst confirmed that the deal took place in the form of a swap rather than a cash transaction. OzEmail will relinquish its 55 per cent share of WebCentral in exchange for the remaining 45 per cent of the company's consumer ISP division, now PowerUp Internet.
Ernst believes the buyback provides greater scope for WebCentral to expand.
"The consumer dial-up Internet market and connection business is now a mature business, better managed as part of a larger company such as OzEmail," Ernst said. "The Web hosting and evolving application service provider (ASP) business is still in its infancy and in this market space there is a need for more companies, such as WebCentral, to be entrepreneurial."WebCentral has secured $11 million worth of funding from investment company FTR to develop and market a new portal builder service, allowing the company to leverage all its current SME tools to corporate and large customers. The portal builder service will allow corporate customers to offer business e-mail services, dial-in-access, and a whole range of other products to their own clients.
"For the original directors this marks a new beginning," said Ernst. "We have grown the business from scratch to a cashflow positive business with quarterly incomes in excess of $3 million. The original capital injection was about $4000, along with a 200MB hard disk and an air conditioner; we have come a long way since then."As part of the agreement WebCentral will continue to provide Web hosting for both OzEmail and UUNET Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. UUNET has also been selected by WebCentral as its supplier of connectivity services.
Ernst said that UUNET wanted to tidy up any loose ends with its smaller ISPs before they put OzEmail up for sale and saw two distinct areas within the company.