March 20, 2008, 12:00 AM

Commerce Planet hires an adviser as it weighs its options

Commerce Planet, a provider of online marketing services and e-commerce software, has engaged investment bank New Century Capital Partners to explore strategic alternatives. It also announced a government inquiry about potentially improper practices.

Commerce Planet Inc., a provider of online marketing services and e-commerce software has engaged investment bank New Century Capital Partners LLC to explore strategic alternatives, which is often a precursor to a sale or merger. Separately, the company announced a request for information from the Federal Trade Commission about potentially improper practices dating back to 2004.

In announcing the hiring of New Century, Commerce Planet noted there is no assurance that any transaction will take place. "The company`s decision to explore strategic alternatives is consistent with its goal to maximize value for shareholders,” says president and CEO Tony Roth. “During this review, we will continue to focus on utilizing our healthy balance sheet and our fully integrated propriety platforms and services to strengthen our Iventa e-commerce businesses.” Iventa, a provider of e-commerce software was acquired by Commerce Planet last fall.

Commerce Planet also disclosed in a regulatory filing this month that it had received a request from the FTC for information to determine whether the company “may have been engaged since 2004 in the improper use of e-mails, metatags, computer code or programs, or unfair trade practices involving Internet-related goods or services” in potential violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act. Commerce Planet says it does not believe it violated the law and is cooperating with the FTC investigation.

Commerce Planet also said in its filing that it believes the FTC sent similar requests to other providers of online marketing and e-commerce services. An FTC spokesman says the agency could not elaborate on the request to Commerce Planet or on whether similar requests were made to other companies.

Roth, a former executive at Utix Group Inc., moved into the top spot at Commerce Planet in November, replacing Michael Hill who continues as chairman of the board. Roth did not return calls seeking comment on the two announcements.

In its most recent earnings report, Commerce Planet reported in November a third quarter loss of $2.6 million on revenue of $5.4 million, down 29% from the same quarter the year before. For the first nine months of 2007, the company reported revenue of $29.5 million, up 58% from the prior year, and net income of $2 million.

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