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Priceline, MSN Partner Up in Asia

MSN Asia has partnered with Priceline.com to launch a new Asian travel service.

Similar to Priceline.com's deal with competing portal Yahoo!, the new MSN service is now accessible via its Hong Kong website and in Singapore. The new service is expected to provide users with cost savings of up to 20 to 30 percent off typical market rates.

The deal serves to illustrate the commitment of Hutchison-Priceline, the joint venture formed back in March that is 65-percent owned by Hutchison Whampoa Ltd in Hong Kong and and 35-percent owned by priceline.com

But unlike the Yahoo! deal, MSN tries to go one step further by capitalizing on the popularity of mobile messaging services throughout the region. MSN said in a release that the joint MSN/Priceline service also will be available through the new 'Tabs' function in MSN's Instant Messenger by the end of this year in Hong Kong. In September, Hutchison-Priceline said it was planning to test a roll-out of e-commerce SMS services in Hong Kong.

"The immediacy of MSN Instant Messenger has long made it extremely popular across Asia and now by providing access to new services like Travel through the new Tabs feature, we expect the number of users to multiply still more rapidly," said Celia Chong Wu, Regional General Manager, MSN Asia.

"With the availability of Priceline in MSN Instant Messenger, we will be able to offer a unique customer experience for travellers using MSN Messenger as well as provide Priceline access to the rapidly growing MSN Messenger user base regionally. This is truly in line with our .NET Vision, which aims to connect people, information, and systems," said Mark Phibbs, General Manager, Microsoft Hong Kong.

"This is exactly what Hong Kong's leisure travellers have always wanted," added Hutchison-Priceline CEO Alfredo Gangotena.