Web portal Excite, a joint venture between bankrupt US broadband provider Excite@Home and BT, is to close this week. The site will "go dark" on 21 December, Excite confirmed yesterday.

The company announced last month that it was looking for a new investor, but said in a statement that none has been found.

Excite UK closed its other European sites earlier this year but assured UK users that its relationship with BT was strong and that its subscriber list was continuing to grow.

But this is a very different story from today's announcement.

"The decision to cease trading is both unavoidable and deeply regrettable," said managing director Rebecca Miskin.

All existing customers, when logging on to their Excite account, will be directed to Lycos services and informed that Excite will cease all services this Friday.

"I am saddened by this decision and would like to express my gratitude to the hard working committed team here at Excite UK," added Miskin.

The remaining 48 staff members will lose their jobs. Any money left after the shutdown will be split between BT Openworld, BT's internet service provider division, which owns a 42 percent stake, and Excite@Home.

There is no estimate of how much money is likely to be involved, said Excite, "but we are confident there will be some. No one will go unpaid," he said.

Excite@Home is due to close down in February 2002. Excite UK's sister European portal, Excite Europe, closed in July this year.