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Michael Haynes, president and chief operating officer, told the Antiques Trade Gazette last week that they were in the final stages of negotiating a merger with a publicly held US company that is active in buying and selling and auctioneering, but added that in accordance with US securities law they could not disclose the name of the merger partner until a later date.

He did say, however, that “with respect to the London offices, Gavelnet are in conjunction with their merger partner and are in the process of making some changes to the operations.”

His statement follows in the wake of comments by the company’s vice president of business development in Europe, Michael Thompson Glover, who had earlier told the Antiques Trade Gazette that their UK operations were “suspended”. Certainly, no-one has been available for comment at the London office, where the ringing phones remain unanswered.

It was only in April that Gavelnet acquired Antiques Portfolio, the Internet portal company for dealers, launching their Gavelnet Emporium service, which offered dealers a chance to sell on the Internet without having to invest in a computer or other equipment. But the venture capital-backed parent company have made no secret of the fact that they have largely concentrated their efforts so far on developing the US market, focusing on sales via interactive TV rather than the Internet. Although previous president Chris Efird announced a mid-May date for the launch of their own US TV channel at February’s Southampton Institute Internet conference, the deadline was not met and the Antiques Trade Gazette was told that the launch had been delayed to an unspecified date.