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‘Marts Buying Back E-tail Units

Bentonville, Ark. – In the wake of a weak market for dot-com investment capital, Wal-Mart and Kmart are biting the bullet and buying back their e-commerce businesses.

Wal-Mart, headquartered here, is acquiring the remaining minority interet in Palo Alto, Calif.-based from Accel Partners, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Similarly, No. 2 discount chain Kmart said it would buy up the outstanding 40 percent of shares of its San Francisco-based online affiliate BlueLight LLC Aug. 1 pending shareholder approval. Neither merchant would disclose the price or terms of the acquisitions.

Both discounters said the deals were designed to better integrate their online operations with their core brick-and-mortar businesses. But the buybacks are also believed to be driven by a dearth of venture capital dollars and the poor climate for Internet-related IPOs, leaving the parent companies as the sole sources for continued funding.

The moves follow similar announcements from RadioShack, which is buying back Microsoft’s 25 percent preferred minority interest in LLC for $88 million, and Staples, which is also acquiring shares of its online division.