Hunting For The Next Amazon

Investors search for a big winner among Europe's Net startups

It was a small item buried in Italy's business pages in mid-January. But when Italian investors learned Class Editori, a Milan publisher, was moving into online brokerage, they bid up the shares by 50% in two trading sessions. Days later, when the publisher announced plans to team up with a local bank to open a Web site, the rush turned into an Internet stampede all'Americana. By Jan. 26, the stock had soared another 180%, giving Class a market value of $900 million--or nine times 1998 sales. Outrageous? "It seems modest compared with the crazy multiples we're seeing in the U.S.," says Massimiliano Guttadauro, media analyst at Milan brokerage Albertini Sim.

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