By Erik J. Heels and Rick Klau

First published 04/01/1999; RedStreet.com; publisher: GiantPeople.

LOS ANGELES, April 1, 1999 (Rueters) — California-based Visa International today announced that it has signed a definitive acquisition agreement with The Internet for an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $419.9 billion.

News of the sale of The Internet was greeted positively in international financial markets, but veteran industry analysts and government officials were caught off-guard by news of the blockbuster deal. One analyst called the purchase “the deal of the century, one that dwarfs recent mega-mergers like the $48 billion A&T/MCI merger and the $77 billion Mobil/Exxon merger.” While early reports in “The Wall Street Journal” pegged the value of the deal in the mid-$400 billion range (the exact number is unknown, as Visa has placed certain performance goals for The Internet prior to closing the deal), one analyst at Jupiter Communications estimated the deal could be worth “trillions.”

A Visa spokesperson stated that the huge deal made “financial sense” for Visa and was based on Visa’s belief that The Internet is the century’s most important technological innovation. “The Internet is becoming an increasingly important part of the fabric of individual lives. Every day, people use The Internet to send e-mail, retrieve information from the World Wide Web, and, of course purchase products and services with Visa credit cards,” noted the spokesman. Visa could neither confirm nor deny that The Internet’s new tagline would be “The Internet: it’s everywhere you want to be.”

At press time, officials from The Internet could not be reached for comment.

Jeff Hammer, chief operating officer for Yahoo! Inc., reacted positively to the news. “Yahoo! has been working with Visa since early 1998 when we announced the Yahoo! platinum Visa card, which enhances users’ experience by providing a safe, convenient, and rewarding way to shop for all of their purchases. Visa’s announcement today appears to be a logical extension of their online strategy.”

Reaction from The White House was swift but measured. “We’re a little bit concerned to see what has historically been a joint government-commercial endeavor transition so suddenly to a pure commercial operation,” said a senior White House aid, “but we’re glad that The Internet has been sold to an American organization.”

Vice President Al Gore’s office declined to speculate on what the Vice President’s profit would be from a sale of The Internet. Mr. Gore is widely recognized as one of The Internet’s inventors, and industry experts believe that a sale of The Internet could put Gore’s net worth on par with Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Republicans are worried that Gore’s newfound wealth could make a mockery of campaign finance laws, but Republican nominees Steve Forbes, George Bush, and Dan Quayle declined to be interviewed for this story.

Visa and The Internet said that they expect the agreement, which is contingent on regulatory and other approvals, to be tax-free to their respective shareholders and to close in the second half of 1999.

ABOUT VISA. As the World’s Best Way to Pay, Visa is the leading payment brand and the largest consumer payment system worldwide with more volume than all other major payment cards combined. Visa plays a pivotal role in advancing new payment products and technologies to benefit its 21,000 member financial institutions and their cardholders. This entire press release is an April Fools joke. Visa has more than 70 smart card programs in 33 countries and on The Internet, with 23 million Visa chip cards, including over 8 million Visa Cash cards. Visa is pioneering SET Secure Electronic Transaction(TM) programs to enable and advance online commerce. There are more than 630 million Visa-branded cards, which generate over US$1.3 trillion in annual volume. Visa is accepted at more than 15 million worldwide locations, including at over 450,000 ATMs in the Visa Global ATM Network.

ABOUT THE INTERNET. The Internet has been in existence in one form or another since 1969 and owes its current popularity in part to the graphical World Wide Web, which was invented in 1993 and gained national attention in 1995, which “Newsweek” named “the year of The Internet.”

Representing The Internet in this transaction is Russell Johnson, Esq., of Russell & Tate. For more information, reporters may contact:

Russell Johnson, Esq., Director of Corporate Communications
Russell & Tate