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Marks & Spencer Ventures (M&SV) has entered into a strategic partnership with Talkcast, the digital media and communications company, to develop and market new products.

M&SV will take a minority stake in Talkcast as part of the three-year partnership to develop a rolling programme of new products and services in areas such as financial services and health.

The initial focus of the partnership will be on telecommunications and digital services, including mobile information services. It is expected that the first of the new products will be available by Autumn 2000. The partners aim to attract one million users within two years.

M&SV was created in late 1999 to take advantage of the benefits of digital technology. This is the fourth and most wide ranging of the deals entered into so far. 

Talkcast was launched in September 1999 and has a management team drawn from the media, entertainment and technology. Amongst its founding investors are Durlacher and Autonomy Corporation, Talkcast's key technology partner. 

Geoffrey Chamberlain, chief executive of Durlacher, who introduced the two parties, commented: "This ground-breaking arrangement combines M&S's major presence in the physical world, with Talkcast's expertise and positioning in the digital market place. We believe that this is a unique example of how this type of convergence can create significant value for the customers and shareholders of both organisations."

The M&SV partnership is Talkcast's first strategic partnership aimed at a significant and established community of customers for which new products will be developed and delivered. 
M&S account card customers are likely to be offered special incentives and access to the new and innovative mobile telephony and information services billed directly. 

Peter Salsbury CEO of Marks & Spencer said: "Marks & Spencer Ventures seeks to combine the best of the digital world with our existing skills, presence and brand strength. I believe the strategic partnership with Talkcast is a very exciting opportunity."

Mark Opzoomer, joint CEO of Talkcast added: "To fully realise our aim of delivering targeted, original digital services and products we need to develop partnerships with significant, established businesses. Our association with M&S gives us an enormous opportunity to prove the validity of our aim." 

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