China.com Explores Pan-Asian Route With Acquisitions

Riding a wave of optimism after China’s recent agreement with U.S. officials to enter the World Trade Organization (WTO), China.com (Nasdaq: CHINA) announced today that it has entered into a joint venture and acquired majority stakes in three companies.

China.com — the first Asian Internet company listed on a U.S. stock index — took stakes in iConcept.net, a Hong Kong-based content developer that targets small to medium-sized businesses in China, Information @ge Ltd., a technology news provider, and e-Asia Sdn. Bhd., a Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-based Internet advertising specialist.

China.com also announced that it is taking a majority stake in a B2B e-commerce joint venture that will be known as Beijing Ark. The venture will be formed with Dr. Jay Tian, a respected Chinese IT professional and one of its Internet pioneers.

Tian is the founder of Read Online, an independent ISP.

“These four investments strengthen our ability to serve the Greater China market and the entire Asian region with industry-leading Internet solutions and to ensure that we are associated with world-class Internet technology,” said China.com COO Peter Hamilton.

Name Recognition Abroad

China.com is the most widely-recognized Chinese Internet company in the U.S., in part due to its initial public offering in July and the fact that AOL is a 10 percent shareholder. The company’s IPO gathered plenty of media coverage when its share price rose from the offering price of $20 (US$) to $67 by close, a 235 percent gain.

The stock hovered around that price for a time, but then lost ground in September when Chinese officials made veiled threats of shutting down the Internet industry to foreign investment. However, that all changed earlier this month when the U.S and China reached an agreement on trade matters as a precursor to the country joining the WTO.

Since then, China.com’s stock has soared, closing yesterday at $123.

Despite all of its success abroad, China.com is the 39th-ranked Chinese Internet company in terms of daily page views, registering less than half of other portals like Sina.com and Sohu.com.

Building Ad Business

Today’s announcements may help turn the tables. The company has acknowledged that its content is very thin, so the Information @ge deal will be relied upon to give it some bulk. The other two investments address fledgling Chinese markets that have the potential to be very lucrative in the long-term.

China.com has been trying to drum up online advertising in Asia. Online advertising company 24/7 has a 7.6 percent stake in the company, and China.com has recently bought advertising companies in Malaysia, Hong Kong and South Korea.

The company booked third-quarter revenues of $5.2 million and a loss of $4.4 million.

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