AOL Buys Stake In IPO-Bound China.com

America Online
Inc.
(AOL) has acquired a 10 percent stake in Hong Kong portal operator
China.com Corp., according to sources
and press reports.

AOL already has an agreement with China.com’s sister company, China Internet
Corp., to jointly launch the AOL Hong
Kong
Internet service later this year.

Industry observers see the move as attempt to boost China.com’s image ahead
of it’s upcoming $50 million IPO on NASDAQ.

China.com representatives refused to comment on AOL’s investment.

China’s government news agency, Xinhua,
has a majority stake in CIC and an undisclosed stake in China.com — a fact
that hasn’t always been popular in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Pundits therefore see AOL’s investment as a move to legitimize China.com as
a player in Greater China in the eyes of investors.

This is further supported by last weeks move by Hong Kong property giant and
telecom provider New World Infrastructure (NWI) to increase
its equity in China.com Corp. to over 20 percent.
Upon completion of the deal, NWI will be the largest shareholder of
China.com, according to company representatives.

China.com’s Internet properties include China.com, China Wide Web, Hongkong.com and Taiwan.com. It also operates 24/7 Asia, a partnership with U.S. ad
network 24/7 Media, and the Web Connection, a regional
e-business solution’s provider.

Ellen O’Gorman, China.com’s spokesperson, said that the aggregated amount of
registered users on its sites was over 400,000.

According to several sources, China.com Corp is also working on a new
project — a Chinese and English Geocities-type Web community called
Cosmozone.com.

Targeting the global Chinese community, the virtual community will possibly
provide services like free server space, additional space leasing, chat
rooms, free e-mail, classifieds, auctions, online shopping, and directories.

China.com officially declined to comment on the project.

Currently, Renren.com is the only
Geocities-category site that focuses on users in Greater China.

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