Softbank Latin America Buys Stake in BitTime

SAN FRANCISCO (08/31/2000) - Softbank Latin America, a recently launched unit of Japan's Softbank Corp., announced Wednesday that it has purchased a 27 percent stake in BitTime.com, a company specializing in online consumer incentive and loyalty programs throughout the region.

Softbank didn't disclose the terms of the deal and said the investment was chosen based on the company's management team, its portfolio of large companies and its sales.

Miami-based BitTime has a large Latin American footprint with offices in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and Venezuela. Together, those markets account for more than 85 percent of Latin America's online population. BitTime develops and operates loyalty programs for offline and online business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies targeting Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking audiences.

"The programs developed by BitTime.com will help electronic commerce grow in the region, both among companies and consumers," Softbank said in a statement.

There are currently about 12 million people online in Latin America, but that figure is expected to triple during the next three years. E-commerce is only starting to develop, with total sales for this year expected to be about $500 million, but that figure should soar to nearly $8 billion by 2003, according to different research groups.

Softbank Latin America is a newcomer to the region, as it only began operations six months ago with an initial fund of $150 million to invest in Latin America's Net economy. So far, it lags behind the region's 10 most active U.S and European VCs, but the company promises to catch up fast.

"We will invest as much as it makes sense to us," says Jan Boyer, founder and CEO of Softbank Latin America. "The region is very important and we are just arriving."

Since its launch, Softbank Latin America has invested a total of $35 million in online financial services firm Dineronet children's learning site Jugamos.com, pan-regional logistics site, From2.com and Connectmed, a b-to-b for the health care industry.

Softbank Latin America already has offices in Buenos Aires, Miami, Sao Paulo and New York, and intends to complete it regional expansion by opening an office in Mexico City.

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