US computer group Hewlett-Packard and UK venture capitalist Apax Partners are to pump £25m into easyEverything, the internet café chain launched last year by flamboyant airline tycoon Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

Haji-Ioannou, founder of the UK-based low cost airline easyJet and chairman of the parent holding company easyGroup, said the two investors had agreed to provide convertible loans of £10m each, while Hewlett-Packard will also contribute a £5m unsecured loan to finance working capital, plus leasing finance for the supply of PCs to the cafés. The loans could be converted into equity stakes of about 10% per cent each and two Apax appointees will serve on the easyEverything board.

The first easyEverything café opened in London last June and has since spawned four other locations in central London, including what is claimed to be world's largest internet café - a 550-seater in Kensington. Another site is due to open in Edinburgh later this week, with openings next month scheduled for Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Barcelona.

easyEverything aims to have twenty sites operational by the year end, expanding to sixty locations across the main cities of Europe by December 2001. The group is also "seriously considering" its first internet café in New York, "to see how this concept works in the US environment".

News source: Financial Times