eBay to replace Chinese auction site with JV

eBay refuses to admit defeat, enthusiastic about new partnership

eBay confirmed Wednesday that it will replace its China auction site with a new joint-venture site run by partner Tom Online in 2007.

The announcement comes after months of speculation that eBay was preparing to vacate the Chinese market after losing the market lead and significant share to rival Alibaba.com's Taobao auction site.

Beijing-based Tom Online will operate "Tom Yi Qu," which combines the Tom name with the Chinese name for eBay's current site. Tom Online will hold a 51 percent stake in the new venture. EBay will inject EachNet, its China subsidiary, into the venture and hold the remaining 49 percent stake.

EBay will also contribute US$40 million (AUD$51 million) to the joint venture, and Tom US$20 million, the companies said. According to the terms of the deal, the two companies may also invest a further combined US$10 million.

The deal will close in January, said eBay Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman at a webcast press conference in Shanghai. "The deal is very balanced, although the financial contributions are different," she said of the levels of capital and resources given to the joint venture.

Tom Online CEO Wang Lei Lei will lead the new venture. EBay EachNet CEO Jeff Liao will assist in the transition and continue to oversee EBay's non-EachNet operations in China, such as promoting use of eBay's main site to Chinese users as a way of reaching global customers, the company said.

"EBay Eachnet has a young, dynamic, and the most experienced e-commerce team in China," said Wang, who hopes that the deal will allow Tom Online to "use the EachNet brand to attract major buyers and sellers."

Whitman declined to admit defeat. "We are very enthusiastic about the China market. We are very proud of the work we have done in pioneering e-commerce in China. We decided it was important to partner with a local partner to take our efforts to the next level," she said.

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