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E*TRADE, Partners Launch E*TRADE Korea

After months of unofficial media reports, E*TRADE Group Inc. surprised few Monday when it unveiled the product of its partnership with Japanese Net powerhouse Softbank and LG Investment & Securities -- a Korean version of the online brokerage.

The three companies lead a joint venture for the E*TRADE Korea service officially launched today, a debut which marks the group's (EGRP) seventh global branding effort. Government approval for the license was received on Jan. 14, which E*TRADE says makes it the first multinational company to bring an online trading service to Korea.

asia.internet.com sources previously reported that E*TRADE Korea would be capitalized with 10 billion won ($8.3 million), with Softbank taking the largest single stake at 40 percent ownership. LG Investment & Securities will take a 15 percent stake, E*TRADE itself will control 10 percent of the venture, and another 15 percent will be split among Korean shareholders.

The brokerage will offer trades on the Korea Stock Exchange (KSE) and the Nasdaq-styled Kosdaq.

The company believes that market is more than ready for online trading, citing a recent study by the Korea Securities Dealers Association (KSDA) which says Korea has the world's second largest online trading market, with more than 40 percent of trades conducted via the Internet. The country also boasts a developed telecom insfrastructure and significant Internet penetration, according to E*TRADE.

LG Investment & Securities is a Korean brokerage and underwriting firm with subsidiaries in London, New York and Hong Kong.

Softbank's interest in Korea has been looming larger with several significant investments and the promise of more to come. Softbank recently formed an agreement with Korea's Naray Mobile Telecom to create an Internet venture capital firm for investment in promising Korean Internet start-ups. The venture was vested with $100 million in initial capital and primarily chartered to bring Softbank-supported imports to the Korean market. The second aim is to finance local startups.

Softbank will own an 80 percent stake in SBHK while Naray Mobile Telecom will hold the remaining 20 percent share. The venture's investment input is expected to increase to between $300 and $400 million.