Byline: James Fallon

LONDON — QXL.com PLC, the online auction site partially owned by Bernard Arnault’s Europ@Web, Tuesday announced plans for a $1 billion merger with ricardo.de AG of Germany.
The transaction will be Europe’s largest Internet deal and will create Europe’s largest online auction company, through a merger of QXL and ricardo in a 1-for-1 share exchange. It comes at a time when Arnault, owner of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, is stepping up his involvement in both the Internet and the auction world. Arnault last year bought the auction house Phillips, in which he’s investing heavily to raise its profile against the significantly larger Sotheby’s and Christie’s.
The merger is expected to be completed in August. The new company, to be called QXL ricardo, will be listed on the London Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq National Market in the U.S. and will be based in London.
Ricardo, launched in July 1998, is a leading e-commerce and auction site in Germany with additional operations in the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.K. It had more than 670,000 registered users as of March 31. Its German operations generated a gross auction value of $22.5 million in the quarter ended that day.
The deal follows QXL’s purchase of the Scandinavian online auction service Bidlet, in March, in a share-to-share exchange worth $548.3 million.
QXL operates online auction sites in nine languages and currencies throughout Europe and had more than 500,000 registered users as of Jan. 31. It reported sales of $2.4 million, and a gross auction value of $7.8 million in the quarter ending Dec. 31.