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I Dream Of Buying Genie


Up Front: I-WAY PATROL

I DREAM OF BUYING GENIE

GENIE HAS FACED A TOUGH time granting parent General Electric its wish: to sell the 10-year-old online service. But now, GEnie may have a buyer, a group of its independent information providers. Ed Perrone, who furnishes the network with daily horoscopes, says that he and 40 other providers are trying to raise capital from investors to bid for the orphan service.

GEnie has been on the block since Nov. 13, but the top three services (America Online, CompuServe, and Prodigy) seem uninterested. With just 100,000 subscribers, it's only one-tenth Prodigy's size. Another minus: The sale of GEnie--created to boost nighttime usage of the business-oriented General Electric Information Services (GEIS) network--doesn't include the network's servers and other gear.

Perrone doesn't recoil at paying $35 million--analysts' estimate of GE's asking price--for a distant-fifth-place service. Some analysts think GEnie actually turns an enticing profit, since its members spend hours online playing so-called multiplayers games such as Air Warrior, rather than merely sending E-mail. So Perrone feels GEnie just needs a stronger marketing push. Both GE and Allen & Co., hired to sell the service, declined comment on potential buyers.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT, WITH PAUL ENG


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