Internet founding father PlasticsNet, along with 58 other Web storefront sites, is again on the market for a buyer only a year after it first changed ownership hands.
PlasticsNet, a provider of online information and buyer catalogs, is owned by Horsham, Pa.-based Verticalnet Inc. Commerx Inc. of Westchester, Ill., sold the plastics-industry dot-com to Verticalnet in February 2001.
Commerx had launched the Web site in 1995 as one of the first online hawkers of resin purchases and sourcing catalogs. Commerx shifted its focus to become a software provider, and now Verticalnet plans a similar move.
Verticalnet, an owner of more than 50 Web business addresses mostly serving manufacturing markets, plans to jettison those sites to concentrate on software for supply-chain applications, said Ed Barrett, marketing director for Verticalnet's small- and medium-sized business unit. That entire unit, with 100 employees, is for sale at an unspecified price.
Barrett said the dot-com market had shifted from one needing an array of independent marketplaces to one where private companies want help managing individual, personalized sites and buyer networks.
``We've broken the mold of marketplaces,'' Barrett said. ``What we will do now is get supplier content in front of more buyers.''
The company will shop several other plastics-relevant sites, including Machine Tools Online, Packaging Network.com and Adhesives and Sealants.com.
The PlasticsNet site, though, has a longer history than some of the others, with former Chief Executive Officer Timothy Stojka an early proponent of Web-based buying.
Before Verticalnet bought the dot-com, Commerx had moved PlasticsNet away from online purchasing to focus on both sourcing and information. Verticalnet further reduced its scope by dropping the site's editorial staff and instead running articles from wire services.
The site also offers a seldom-visited chat room, plus product and buyer catalog listings.
Fetching interest in PlasticsNet could be difficult, said David Jukes, senior vice president of global commercial organization at Omnexus, a leading dot-com marketplace for processors that offers extensive purchasing tools. That company, with U.S. headquarters in Atlanta, has no interest in PlasticsNet, Jukes said.
``If you're going to survive on the Web, you have to provide value and continue to invest,'' Jukes said. ``Having a storefront for its own sake and running a banner ad does not drive traffic. The world has moved on.''
The Verticalnet dot-com sites could garner interest from either a large general portal, such as one offered by Microsoft Corp., or from a telecommunications service provider looking to expand its Yellow-Page-style offerings, according to Tim Klein, equity analyst with U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray of Minneapolis.
``It will be a question of what price Verticalnet can get for it,'' said Klein, who follows the publicly held company. ``The technology is there. By making a few changes, a buyer can do something few others have tried to do by combining cataloging and transactional capabilities on a large scale.''
Verticalnet's small- and medium-sized unit had declined in sales from $104.5 million in 2000 to $89.9 million last year. Overall, the company recorded sales of $125.6 million in 2001.