Christoph Mohn, the heir to the Bertelsmann media empire, has called for Europe to create an Airbus of the internet, to compete with US giants such as Google and Ebay.
Mr Mohn, chief executive of Lycos Europe, said his online community and search company would introduce some products to the US market in the next 12 months but European internet companies were operating at a disadvantage to their US rivals.
“So far, we have not built up a sizeable internet company in Europe,” he said. “It’s not good for the European Union. Nano-technology, biotechnology and the internet are the growth industries but in most of these the position is not good for Europe.” Airbus has recently confirmed that deliveries of its new A380 super-jumbo passenger jet, the world’s biggest airliner, will be delayed.
Mr Mohn endorsed the controversial Franco-German plan to build a state-funded European search engine called Quaero, saying: “It’s a little bit like Airbus Industries. I don’t think it requires consolidation [of Eur-ope’s internet industry] but it needs co-ordination.”
Quaero was launched this year with initial funding of €1.7bn ($2.2bn) to develop voice-based and picture-based search technologies. “[Quaero] is not just about ‘let’s beat Google’,” Mr Mohn said. “It’s ‘let’s build up a competitive internet industry’.” Bertelsmann and Lycos Europe are members of the Quaero consortium, which includes Siemens, Deutsche Telekom, Thomson and France Telecom.
Mr Mohn said Lycos Europe, which in the first half of this year came close to breaking even for the first time, was now ready to enter the US market. The group would take the first of its products to the US on its own or under licence within a year.