The global business network Linkedin.com finally launched its German portal this week and said the next step was to build the German job board and news offering. Kevin Eyres, European head of Linkedin, said he will announce a number of partnerships with German publishers for German content in coming weeks. Last year Linkedin set aside $53 million as a special war chest for growing its business in Europe and announced it would attack the German market, where Xing.com, the Hamburg-based competitor of Linkedin, is particularly strong.

Xing must have anticipated Linkedin’s attack would focus on jobs, because it launched a major advertising campaign in Germany to promote its job board a few weeks ago, and said the campaign would later be rolled out to other countries in Europe. 

Xing also prepared itself for a fight on the news front: In December it bought New York-based Socialmedian Inc, a leader in the social news industry. The company’s social news technology sorts news from 19,000 sources, including Digg, Delicious, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Youtube, Google Reader, FriendFeed, blogs and mainstream media. It allows a user to set up a news filter, which can be shared with others in his network. Socialmedian’s founder and CEO, Jason Goldberg, joined Xing in Hamburg, Germany as vice president: applications platform, and is responsible for building partnerships with application developers and content providers around the world.   

In January Xing strengthened its management cadre with the appointment of the former EBay Germany CEO Stefan Gross-Selbeck as new CEO, and the move of the founder and long-standing CEO Lars Hinrichs into the board of the listed company. 

So, the stage is set for an interesting tussle for market share between the two giants in Germany. Linkedin already has 9 million registered users in Europe, of which about 500,000 are German-based. In comparison Xing says it has 6.5 million registered users in Europe, of which the bulk assumedly comes from the German-speaking region (Xing does not divulge individual country statistics).

Although Xing leads in the German-speaking countries, Linkedin has its head clearly ahead in a number of other important European countries, most notably the UK, Italy and France. According to statistics published by the blogger Holger Schmidt, Linkedin even leads in Spain, where Xing bought the leading network Neurona.com in 2007 and merged it with Xing. To make matters more interesting: Linkedin says it’s German membership grew by a whopping 62 percent last year.    

According to Linkedin it first turned profitable in 2006. Last year it budgeted for a turnover of $100 million. In the first nine months of 2008 Xing’s turnover amounted to €25.1 million (about U.S.$33 million). 

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