Overture continues push into Europe

Search provider announces fifth European launch; further expansion planned

AMSTERDAM -- Paid search listings provider Overture Services Inc. is pushing into Europe, opening offices across the continent and setting ambitious growth targets.

Overture, which is in the process of being acquired by Web titan Yahoo Inc., launched in the Netherlands on Tuesday. It was the company's fifth European launch after setting up shop in the U.K. in 2000, France and Germany in 2002, and Italy earlier this year.

Further expansion is planned. Overture hopes to cover Spain, Switzerland, Austria, and Scandinavia by year's end and plans to launch in Belgium and Ireland next year, it said Tuesday at a presentation in Amsterdam.

"Our expansion continues to accelerate across the globe," said Nick Hynes, managing director and president for Overture in Europe. Hynes forecasted the company will double European revenue in 2004, which is already expected to grow significantly this year from last. The company employs about 250 people in Europe, he said.

The bulk of Overture's business is still in the U.S. In 2002, Overture reported revenue of $667.73 million: $635.11 million in the U.S. and $32.62 million outside of the U.S. For 2003, Overture forecasts $1 billion in global revenue, $150 million of which will be international and a significant proportion of that is from Europe, Hynes said.

Overture of Pasadena, California, sells keyword-based listings on a number of large Web search sites, with Microsoft Corp.'s MSN and Yahoo as its largest partners, accounting for over 60 percent of its revenue. Overture said it had more than 95,000 advertisers in the second quarter of the year.

With Overture, advertisers don't pay unless a Web user clicks on the link to their site. The links appear after a certain keyword or set of keywords has been entered in a Web search engine. These keywords are sold auction-style, with the advertiser who bids the most per click appearing on top of the listings on the search results page.

"It is getting more and more important for advertisers to be found (on the Web.) Advertisers are waiting for per-click advertising," said Ruud Smeets, managing director of Overture in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, Overture has already signed airline Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij NV and several other large advertisers, he said. The minimum amount advertisers can bid for a keyword in the Netherlands is €0.15 ($0.17) per click-through. Worldwide, the average price paid per click through is $0.40, according to Overture.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.