Asiatravelmart.com Expanding To US, Europe

By Julian Matthews, Newsbytes.
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA,

13 Oct 2000, 2:48 PM CST

****Asiatravelmart.com Expanding To US, Europe 10/13/00 KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, 2000 OCT 13 (NB) -- By Julian Matthews, Newsbytes. Travel services aggregator Asiatravelmart.com has closed a third round funding of US$10 million that will be used to expand its brand in Asia and make inroads into US and Europe.

Asiatravelmart.com chief executive Alex Kong said the funding support underlined continued confidence from investors despite the current dot-com shake-out.

"We are extremely excited. The significant investment secured demonstrates the confidence and trust they put in our business model, our ability to offer profitable returns, as well as in our future performance," said Kong.

Kong told Newsbytes: "We have achieved economies of scale and the attention. In early days, we had to knock on suppliers' doors to convert them. Now, they are knocking on our doors."

Kong said the three-year-old company expects to break even by the end of next year and the current funding brings it one step closer to a public listing, which is being readied for a regional bourse possibly by mid-2001. The company has previously projected revenues of US$65-68 million for 2000.

The fresh funds came from Merrill Lynch Direct Investment Group, Citicorp Capital Asia Ltd, Asia Java Fund, Asia Tech Ventures and Shun Tak Holdings.

Asiatravelmart.com's previous two rounds of funding amounting to about US$4 million from the venture company Asia Tech Ventures, Hong Kong-based investors Jardine Fleming Electra and Shun Tak, and local company Dimensi Tuah.

In a statement, Asiatravelmart.com's first-time investor, John McLean, CEO of Citicorp Capital Asia said the company has demonstrated that it is the market leader in e-travel. "We are particularly impressed with Asiatravelmart.com's unique business model and are confident it will continue to be successful."

Brian Renaud, managing director of Merrill Lynch Direct Investment Group expressed similar confidence in Kong and his team being able to take the company "to next level" based on "impeccable performance to date."

Apart from strengthening its brand in Asia, Kong said the company plans to use the funds for expansion plans into India, US and Europe and expects to announce strategic partnerships in those markets soon.

The company is also looking to improve its travel reservation system already used to link over 7,000 Web sites through its ePartner program including LycosAsia.com, Travel.com.au and GlobalSources.com, Netvigator.com, Click2Asia.com and MSN.com in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Asiatravelmart.com earlier announced plans with Shun Tak to go multilingual, adding simplified Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese capability by year-end. It will also be spending on offline marketing efforts through the launch of a new magazine called Travel Mart this month with an initial print-run of 100,000 copies.

The Asiatravelmart.com site was officially launched in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong in August 1999 as an one-stop travel shop for hotel rooms, flight tickets, tour packages, transfers, meals, car rentals, insurance and other travel products.

Its main plug was an in-house-developed reservation engine that allowed users to get instant confirmation, print out their own receipts and vouchers to redeem their travel services, and process and provide immediate online refunds in case of last-minute cancellations.

Through savvy partnering, the resourceful Kong, who was a tour guide since the age of 14 and whose roots are in a family-owned travel agency based in Miri, Sarawak, has since expanded Asiatravelmart.com's offerings to over 110,000 products from 3,000 travel suppliers in more than 100 countries.

Asiatravelmart.com has scored several significant milestones. It was among the first travel sites in April 2000 to introduce a real-time e-ticketing system in the region where consumers can book and pay for flight tickets online at up to 30 to 60 percent discounts.

In August, it was the first to offer transactional bookings through Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)-enabled mobile phones, allowing users to book and pay for rooms in over 300 hotels in 100 countries using their credit cards.

The Web site has won numerous awards since including the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Gold Awards 2000 for "Travel Web Site of the Year."

Reported By Newsbytes.com, http://www.newsbytes.com

14:48 CST

(20001013/WIRES ASIA, ONLINE, BUSINESS/)

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