The UK supermarket group J Sainsbury and Metro of Germany this week signed up as equity partners in the global business-to-business online exchange for the retail industry launched by Sears and Carrefour.
Each group is understood to have committed to spend about £30m on the GlobalNetXchange venture. Each will own about 5 per cent of the business, which will probably be floated in 18 months.
GlobalNetXchange is also believed to be in advanced talks with Kroger and Safeway of the US, UK supermarket groups Tesco and Safeway, and Royal Ahold of the Netherlands.
The move by Sainsbury is another sign of the pace of change injected into the group by its new chief executive Sir Peter Davis. He has already sacked two executives and made two e-commerce appointments after changing the group’s internet strategy.
The formation of GlobalNetXchange, announced last month, followed the formation of an online exchange for the motor industry, led by Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler. Both ventures provide further evidence of the rapid growth of business to business – or B2B – e-commerce, which is expected to reach $2,000bn by 2004.