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Australian Media Mogul Launches Online Auction Service

Australian publishing giant John Fairfax Holding Tuesday announced plans to join the e-commerce auction fray with its new site, SOLD.com.au, created in partnership with Classified Ventures Inc.

U.S.-based Classified Ventures' claim to fame is its Auction Universe, which it boasts as the largest network of online auction sites across the U.S. and the U.K.

Fred Hilmer, Fairfax's chief executive officer, called sold.com.au "the first full-blown, full-functionality auction site in Australia." Hilmer expects that the company's Australian backing will gives the venture a boost over American rivals eBay and Yahoo! in the country's market.

The site is currently listing auction items that will not be up for bidding until midnight on July 14.

"sold.com.au fills an immediate need in the Australian online marketplace, and we are confident of strong success over the next year," said Nigel Dews, Fairfax's director for interactive businesses. "Our family of Web sites generates more traffic for Australian-related content than any others."

"We will utilise our traffic advantage, and our strong positions in print classifieds and CitySearch."

From now until the launch date, basic auction listings will be free; after July 14 the charge will be $1 per item listing. sold.com.au will take a 3.5 percent commission on the sale price of successful auctions.

Terms of commercial arrangements between the Fairfax and Classified Ventures were not disclosed.

John Fairfax Holdings' mastheads include The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review, The Age, The Sun Herald, as well as various online services. Fairfax introduced two online financial sites, drive.com.au, and online city guide CitySearch.com.au. In 1998, company revenues hit more than $1.1 billion.