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AOL Mexico Goes Live

America Online Latin America Inc. launched its third regional service with Spanish-language service AOL Mexico Tuesday.

AOL Mexico joins its sister sites in Argentina and Brasil with its launch in the South American region.

AOL Latin America is a joint venture between America Online Inc. and the Cisneros Group of Companies, a major Latin America investment and venture fund company.

Anticipating the event, the Florida-based hybrid firm last week announced plans to sell 25 million shares of it stock in its pending initial stock offering Thursday, under the pending ticker symbol AOLA. Net proceeds are expected to exceed $300 million and company officials state their plans to expand their interactive services and telecommunications network capacity in the region.

The service opens the door to more than 400 million Spanish-speaking potential customers in Latin America, officials said.

AOL Mexico has already made partnerships with local and regional content providers, in addition to the content already available through the AOL's main site.

Eduardo Escalante, AOL Mexico president, said the company's approach is popular with Mexican consumers.

"America Online Mexico is the most dynamic interactive service in the Mexican market," Escalante said. "Created by Mexicans who truly understand the needs of Mexican consumers, AOL Mexico delivers a broad range of local content including news, finance and lifestyles along with features and services from the very best world-class, global partners."

AOL Latin America is hoping the launch of its service is more auspicious than the launch last year of AOL Brasil, the Portuguese equivalent of AOL Mexico. Last May, the company filed suit in the country against a local Brasilian Internet service provider over the domain name aol.com.br. The local company prevailed, forcing AOL Brasil to use the domain name br.aol.com.

Charles Herington, AOL Latin America president and chief executive officer, said its company provides a needed service in the country.

"AOL has become the world's leading online service by providing its members with a unique interactive experience that brings increasing value to their daily lives," Herington said. "As the only full-service, online provider in the Mexican interactive market, we continue our momentum toward becoming the leading provider in Latin America."

The Internet market in Latin America is set to explode, with 19.1 million users by 2003, an International Data Corp. report predicts.