Auction Firm Tests the Waters of E-Commerce in China

By debuting an online collectibles auction house in China, Greg Manning Auctions, Inc. (NASDAQ: GMAI) is gearing up to become a major player in the burgeoning Asian e-commerce market.

GMAI-ASIA.com, a Greg Manning subsidiary, will launch the official version of its Chinese and English auction site in October and link to other new endeavors including retail platforms and trading venues. The new Web site was recently tested by way of what Greg Manning believes was the first online stamp auction in China, working in conjunction with the China 1999 World Stamp Exhibition.

“The exhibition has proved to be the perfect venue for the soft launch and testing of our auction software and the interest we have received from collectors and the media is extremely gratifying,” commented J.P. Wang, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of GMAI-ASIA.com. “We have now taken our first major steps in the creation of what we believe will be a major e-commerce company in China and Asia.”

Eyes on the Asian E-Commerce Prize

Although the operations will debut in China, where the company has established two regional Beijing offices, the online firm plans to move into the entire Asia-Pacific region. According to International Data Corp. (IDC), Asia-Pacific “represents a lucrative e-commerce opportunity,” with online spending increasing from $2.7 billion in 1998 to $72 Billion in 2003. During that period of time, the region’s number of Internet users will escalate from 21 million to more than 81 million.

The Greg Manning Auctions move will no doubt be followed by scores of other companies eager to participate in a potentially explosive market. A recent Yankee Group report suggested that China might become the area’s most lucrative e-commerce market. By 2005, in fact, the total number of Internet users in China could exceed that of the United States, the current world leader.

According to Yankee Group forecasts, Asia-Pacific should experience a region-wide surge in Internet usage. The number of people online throughout Asia- Pacific will go beyond the 374 million mark in 2005, a significant increase over 1998’s 39 million total. All that online activity will obviously generate significant e-commerce revenue, say Yankee Group and IDC analysts.

“E-commerce is already yielding real business benefits after two years of economic woes in the region,” observed Lane Leskela, senior industry analyst for digital commerce and Internet access for GartnerGroup Asia-Pacific. Traditional barriers to Internet growth in the region have begun to change, explaining much of the expansion.

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