Hutchison, Priceline Ink E-Commerce Pact

HONG KONG (01/26/2000) - Consumers in several Asian countries would be able to name their own prices for a range of products under a deal between Priceline.com and Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. announced today.

The two companies agreed to form a joint venture that would license Priceline's technology for matching vendors with customers and use Hutchison's well-known brand and retail infrastructure in business-to-consumer e-commerce, according to a statement by the companies.

The venture would serve customers in China, India, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. It is expected to begin its first service, for airline ticket purchasing, later this year, the statement said.

The deal is the latest big alliance for e-commerce in Asia, where the industry is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years. Earlier this week, Hutchison joined a four-way deal for enabling business-to-business e-commerce that also included Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd. and two of Hong Kong's major banks. (See "HK Goliaths Form E-Commerce Venture," January 24.)However, the Priceline-Hutchison venture would go beyond the business-to-business sector that is expected to bloom first. Instead, it is designed to bring the benefits of Internet buying to end-users in the region.

In the U.S., Priceline.com lets consumers name their own prices for airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, home refinancing, home equity loans and even new cars.

The deal between Hutchison and Priceline.com requires approval by the boards of both companies.

Hutchison Whampoa is in Hong Kong and can be reached at http://www.hutchison-whampoa.com. Priceline.com is in Norwalk, Connecticut, at http://www.priceline.com.

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