RealTime IT News

Netease Looks for Buyer

[ASIA] China's top Web site wants to be bought out, reports indicate.

Netease.com has retained Goldman Sachs to find potential buyers, Reuters reported Thursday, citing company sources. The sources did not indicate what the motivation was for seeking a buyer.

One possible taker is Terra Lycos, which has been sniffing around for an entryway into the China market, despite having launched its own localized portal site in mid-2000.

Of China's three top portals--Netease.com, Sina.com, and Sohu.com--Netease seemed the least likely to surrender its independence to its a larger Internet company, especially a foreign one. Since July, Netease has topped every survey by Interactive Audience Measurement Asia (iamasia) both as top Web site and top Web property. In November, Sina.com beat out Netease for total pageviews, but still trailed in the survey's main barometer, total reach based on unique users.

The news could prove disastrous for the share prices of all three, further fueling speculation that China's online advertising market is too immature to support three large competitors, especially with the threat of foreign firms, such as America Online, Yahoo!, and Terra Lycos entering the market after China accedes to the World Trade Organization, likely this year. Sina and Netease shares both hit new lows within the past week.

Netease has neither confirmed nor denied the statement publicly, although company founder and chief technology officer William Ding said they had not made a "definite decision" to sell the company, Reuters reported.