The largest ISP in the US after America Online is about to be created by the merger of former rivals NetZero and Juno Online Services.

The two companies – respectively based in Westlake Village, California and New York – are both providers of free internet access services. The all-paper deal was announced yesterday after close of business on the stock market.

The new combined venture is expected to trade on NASDAQ under the name United Online and the deal finalized before the year end. NetZero shareholders will control the enlarged company with 61.5% of the stock, the residual 38.5% held by Juno investors.

Branded UNTD, it will boast an aggregated seven million subscribers – the majority non-paying. By subscriber numbers UNTD will outrank all other domestic ISPs save AOL. It overtakes Microsoft’s MSN, and the online arms of AT&T and Earthlink

The happy couple have not always been such bosom friends. In a federal court case last year, NetZero accused Juno of infringing its patents and was granted a temporary restraining order, lifted just two months ago. Prior to the surprise romance, a full trial later this year had been expected.

News source: New York Times