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Catcha.com Aims For MSC Status, Regional IPO in Malaysia

Catcha.com, a growing search engine portal in Southeast Asia, plans to apply for MSC (Multimedia Super Corridor) status and a possible listing on one of the regional bourses.

According to its chief operating officer, Nic Lim, Catcha.com regards Malaysia as one of its important Asian markets and has submitted its application for the MSC status a few weeks ago.

Speaking at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Lim said that the company is now based in Singapore and has offices in Malaysia and Indonesia.

"In the next few months, we will also have a setup in the Philippines and Thailand, through a joint venture."

When asked about its public listing, the chief executive officer, Patrick Grove said that Catcha.com had yet to decide on the regional bourse in which to list the company, but it was confident of being listed on Nasdaq within a year.

Catcha.com is a group resulting from the merger of malaysiaserach.com, searchsingapore.com and searchindonesia.net in July this year. It has raised RM12.4 million (US$3.26 million) in financing from investors which allows the company to expand further through mergers and acquisitions.

The financial backing also allows it to have its own dedicated service and human resources in each country involved. It also targets to raise another RM25 million (US$6.6 million) to strengthen its position as Southeast Asia's largest localized portal.

Grove said that currently, Catcha.com has an average of 10 million page hits a month and this was growing at 25 percent to 50 percent per month. In Malaysia, they had identified the content and features to accommodate the information needs of surfers. Among the features are Web-based e-mail, chat, news, e-cards, forum, travel, dating services, food, weather and poll.

Grove further disclosed that the company's database was developed by an Asian team over the last 16 months and it offers insights instantly to more than 30,000 sites within Southeast Asia, of which 15,000 are from Malaysia.

When asked about its revenue source, Grove said the bulk of Catcha.com revenue would come from online advertising as well as sponsorship promotions on its web sites. He pointed out that the potential was based on a study by Goldman Sachs which concluded that Internet advertising in Asia would grow dramatically from the current online advertising spending in Asia at US$237 million to more than US$1.45 billion in 2001.

According to Lim, Catcha.com would spend about RM 1 million (US$263,000) on promotional activities in Malaysia which cover television, radio, billboards, flyers and the Internet.

Regarding its competitive advantage over other search engines, Lim said that chatcha.com has a "local feel and local knowledge and are aware of the needs of the locals."