According to research firm GartnerGroup, Asian B2B e-commerce will top $272 billion (US$) by 2003, with overall Asian e-commerce reaching $340 million.
“There’s a big myth that Asia is light years behind the U.S., but I don’t think we’re behind at all,” said GartnerGroup’s Hong Kong-based research director Joseph Sweeney. “We’re moving in different directions in Asia and it’s B2B that has the most potential,” he said.
Sweeney says that B2B e-commerce will skyrocket despite the economic crisis from which Asia is still recovering.
U.S. Companies Align With Asia
Meanwhile, U.S. companies are seeing the advantage of forming alliances with key Asian Internet companies.
In addition to the deal that was announced earlier this week between NBC Internet, Inc., and Asiacontent.com, other major U.S. players are expanding their interests in the region.
Asiacontent.com also announced plans this week to team up with CNET, Inc. to form CNET Asia, a collection of Internet sites bringing localized technology news, reviews, product comparisons and shopping services to Asian audiences.
CNET Singapore has been operational since 1998, followed by sites in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia. The new venture will extend CNET Asia’s local reach to include sites for China, South Korea and India.
Asia Has Merger Fever
Asia’s Internet companies will experience strategic mergers in the near future, according to investment banking firm techpacific.com’s Robert Owen.
Over the past year, demand for Asian tech stocks has sent some of them soaring, thereby enabling significant buying power for the limited number of Asian Internet companies that list their shares publicly.
Investors worldwide have funneled money into Asian telecommunications companies and chipmakers. China Telecom, for example, has experienced gains of 220 percent over the past year. Its current stock market value is about $70 billion .
China.com Corp., the Hong Kong-based Internet portal that operates china.com, cww.com, taiwan.com and hongkong.com, has experienced a 150 percent increase since it first listed on Nasdaq and has a market capitalization of about $3.2 billion.
The company, which has AOL as a major investor and also has a partnership with 24/7 Asia to handle advertising, has announced plans for a secondary offering aimed at raising at least $300 million.
Massive Expansion for Asian Internet Use
The number of Internet users in Asia is expected to expand by 422 percent within the next five years, according to a recent study by London-based Philips Group.
The region currently has 43.6 million online users, but the study expects that number to increase to about 228 million in 2005 and 370 million in 2006. The study predicts that Japan will likely retain the largest number of users until 2004, but China will surpass Japan in 2005.