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Thrunet Leads Group Purchasing Nowcom

Korea Thrunet Co. Ltd. Friday led a group which invested $59 million for a majority stake in Korean portal and ISP Nowcom Company Ltd.

Thrunet (KOREA) individually injected a total of KRW 35.6 billion (US$31 million) for a 32 percent equity holding, the largest stake in the company. TriGem Computers Inc., TriGem Ventures and Metaland Inc. rounded out the investor group.

Nowcom, also known as "Nownuri" in Korea, claims to be the fourth-largest narrowband portal and ISP with nearly 1.5 million subscribers. The company estimates 70 percent of Nownuri users are in their 20s.

"Until now, our business has been limited to the narrowband market, but with Korea Thrunet we can expand our services to the broadband market," said Chang Hoon Kang, Nowcom's president and chief executive officer.

On the other side of the fence, Thrunet expects to close a gap in its own service offerings, saying the deal will bring Thrunet into the narrowband market.

"At present in Korea, over 90 percent of Internet users still use narrowband access service, and I believe subscribers in the narrowband market will continue to grow, although at a lower rate than that of broadband," said Jong Kil Kim, Thrunet's president and chief executive officer.

"We need to work on migrating those narrowband users into our broadband services, and Nownuri will play a key role for us in increasing traffic and broadening our subscriber base. With a broader subscriber base, we can expect faster growth in generating advertising and e-commerce revenues," said Kim.

In November, Microsoft (MSFT) exercised its option to increase its stakehold in Thrunet to 10 percent from the original 4.5 percent holding. Microsoft's decision arrived the same week that the company listed on the Nasdaq.



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