HP Puts E-Commerce to Work in Latin America

Hewlett-Packard Co. announced Friday that it is teaming with StarMedia Network (Nasdaq: STRM), the largest Spanish-language and Portuguese-language online service in the world, to help merchants put their wares online.

HP plans to bring its “Commerce for the Millennium” integrated e-commerce solution — which the company has successfully deployed in the United States — to Central and South America. The program offers 24-hour turnaround of online merchant IDs, browser-based store-building and secure online-payment processing. Merchants looking to get online can find help with application-hosting services, Web-based procurement and consumer retail services.

Through the “Commerce for the Millennium” project, Latin American merchants will be able to develop and host Web stores for “reasonably low prices” and have access to StarMedia’s burgeoning online shopping community. The registration and installation processes are simple and quick, supported by round-the-clock customer service. HP and StarMedia plan to share any fees and revenues generated by the joint project, including transaction fees from merchant-generated e-commerce.

StarMedia will use its established online communities as a sales and marketing platform for the project. StarMedia operates Zeek!, Cade?, OpenChile and the StarMedia online service. Through those properties, StarMedia offers Latin Americans, Hispanics in the United States and residents of Spain and Portugal a pan-regional online community, including Spanish and Portuguese content tailored for regional dialects and local cultural norms.

Eager Buyers

StarMedia brings a willing audience to the venture. According to a recent study by Laredo Group, Inc., 29 percent of StarMedia users have already made online purchases and 59 percent say they are likely to make a purchase on the Web in the near future.

The company has strategic relationships with Netscape Communications, RealNetworks, Ziff-Davis, Fox Sports Latin America, CDNOW, Reuters, eBay and other online companies. StarMedia also brings shipping expertise to the e-commerce venture, through its recently announced SkyBox initiative, which tackles the logistics of delivering goods in Latin America.

This Latin American “Commerce for the Millennium” project is slated to launch in Brazil next month and expand to the rest of Latin America by early next year.

HP believes that driving e-commerce is the way to help the Internet as a whole expand in Latin America. “E-services technology will serve as a crucial building block in the creation of Internet-based services in Latin America, such as consumer services, integrated travel and healthcare, and e-commerce businesses,” said HP Enterprise Computing President Ann Livermore. According to research by Visa International and IDC, e-commerce revenues are expected to grow nearly 300 fold over five years, from $300 million last year to more than $8 billion by 2003.

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