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Tom.com plans lone listing
( 2003-07-03 08:09) (China Daily)

Hong Kong-listed multimedia company Tom.com Ltd is likely to spin off its Internet business and list it on the NASDAQ stock market in the United States, industrial sources say.

It is understood that US-based investment bank Merrill Lynch suggested in a report to Tom that it should make a separate listing on the US market.

Tom declined to comment about the proposed listing, but an executive, who refused to be named, said the company may release details about the progress of the push in the third or fourth quarter.

Analysts believe the sharp rise of stock prices of US-listed Internet companies, especially the three Beijing-based portals Sina Corp, Netease.con and Sohu.com, is a major reason for Tom's desire to go public.

"The performance of major Internet companies on the NASDAQ is quite bullish and it is not a bad idea to take advantage of it,'' said Wang Ran, chief executive officer of China eCapital Corp, a leading domestic investment consulting firm in Beijing.

Over the past year, the prices of Sina, Netease and Sohu shares have increased as much as 24-fold on the NASDAQ, while Tom stocks on the Growth Enterprise Market have fallen by 25 per cent.

Wang pointed out that for a company like Tom, which has spent a lot of money in acquisitions in the past years, the listing of its Internet arm will provide another channel to raise more capital for expansion.

At the same time, the company, already one of the biggest players in the wireless service market on the Chinese mainland, is also aiming to make itself one of the top four portals in China in terms of online advertising revenue.

According to June 25 statistics from US Internet traffic monitoring website Alexa, Tom was 18th among all major global websites in terms of the number of visitors to its site, closely following Sina, Sohu and Netease.

The Shanghai iResearch Co Ltd, the only consulting firm in China monitoring the traffic of Chinese Internet websites, also pointed out that Tom's number of daily visitors had surpassed Netease to place it third after Sina and Sohu in early June.

"We hope to reach the same level with our competitors in content and it will generate related revenues for us,'' said Elaine Feng, vice-president of Tom's Internet operation.

Wang Leilei, Tom's deputy chief operating officer and the chief executive officer of its Internet arm, said: "China's online advertising market is estimated to be valued at around 800 million yuan (US$96.62 million), but there are only about six strong players and we should have a fair share in the market.''

The company only made a meagre US$120,000 in the first quarter this year, compared with Sina's US$7.3 million.

However, the business said its advertising revenue may triple in the second quarter and reach US$1.81 million this quarter.

Wang Leilei also expects the company's wireless services to continue to grow by as much as 30 per cent quarter-on-quarter.

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