Korea Thrunet Acquires Major Local ISP

Korea Thrunet Co. Ltd., a Nasdaq-listed supplier of broadband Internet access services in Korea, and three other companies on Friday announced they had acquired a majority stake in Nowcom Co. Ltd., the fourth largest online service provider in South Korea.

The four companies paid Hanchang Corp. 68 billion won (US$59.9 million) for a combined 61.2 percent stake in Nowcom. The deal sees Korea Thrunet take around half the stake to hold 32 percent of outstanding stock in Nowcom with TriGem Ventures acquiring 17.5 percent, TriGem Computers Inc. acquiring 10.0 percent and Metaland Inc. taking a 1.7 percent stake.

Nowcom, which operates under the Nownuri service name, has 1.49 million registered users, according to Thrunet.

With the acquisition, Thrunet hopes to be able to migrate customers from narrowband to broadband. "We are aware that the narrowband market is enormously big at this moment in Korea," said Thrunet spokesman Thomas Sung. "We are looking at getting more membership in that area and trying to migrate them to our system."

With around 90 percent of all Internet users in Korea accessing through narrowband providers like Nowcom, Thrunet is hoping to not only attract more users to the service but also migrate them to broadband services as those become available, Sung added.

The deal marks the second major acquisition for Thrunet so far this month.

Earlier in January it announced it had purchased stakes in eight regional cable television system operators in Korea, including majority stakes in five of the companies [See "Korea Thrunet Makes First Infrastructure Buys," Jan. 6].

Korea Thrunet, in Seoul, can be found online at http://www.thrunet.com.

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