MasterCard International, Actra Business Systems, and several other influential companies have formed a consortium aimed at developing a corporate purchasing system for the Internet.

Actra Business is a joint venture of Netscape Communications Corp. and GE Information Systems Inc.

The other consortium members are: BankAmerica Corp., Citicorp, First Chicago NBD Corp., First Data Corp., GE Capital Finance, Boise Cascade Office Products, General Motors Corp., Hamilton Hallmark, Hoffmann-LaRoche, Hughes Aircraft, and National Broadcasting Co.

The system, to be known as the Actra OrderExpert System, is aimed at making it cheaper and easier for companies to order and pay for goods, such as office supplies and raw materials.

"In the Internet environment, purchasing transactions will be faster, more efficient, and more cost-effective," said Steve L. Abrams, senior vice president at MasterCard.

Jules Street, vice president at Killen & Associates in Palo Alto, Calif., said demand exists for Internet purchasing solutions. "Many companies are trying to limit the costs of their acquisitions and purchasing activities," he said.

OrderExpert is to be developed, tested, and promoted by members of the consortium.

MasterCard, by virtue of the emphasis it places on its purchase card programs, is a logical leader of the consortium, experts said.

The pilot test of the system is set for the first quarter. Testing should be completed by the end of the second quarter.

The consortium was unveiled at the Treasury Management Association's annual conference in Atlanta.

A similar purchasing system effort involving Chase Manhattan Corp. and BVR LLC, a Woodbridge, Va.-based software company, also was announced at the conference.

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