New Zealand becomes an e-commerce magnet

New Zealand becomes an e-commerce magnet

International Inter-net investor eVentures Group has up to 200 electronic commerce companies clamouring to come to New Zealand and will launch up to 50 here over the next three years.eVentures provides investment capital and management services to establish international e-commerce companies in the countries where it operates - New Zealand, Australia, the UK and India.

The local operation, which has launched an initial public offering (IPO) to raise $NZ35 million ($32 million), is 64 per cent owned by eVentures Partnership (a joint venture between Internet investor Softbank and News Corp-owned epartners), 16 per cent by former Sky Network TV CEO Craig Heatley, and 6 per cent by corporate investors - Telecom New Zealand, The Warehouse Group and Todd Capital. The remainder has been offered in a public share float which closes on May 4.

The main focus will be to select international e-commerce businesses suitable for New Zealand from Softbank's pool of 300 companies, but there will be some investment in local companies says Bruce McWilliam, a London-based partner in epartners, in New Zealand for the IPO.

He says up to 200 companies are actively seeking entrance to the New Zealand market, and eVentures aims to bring about 15 in each year.

Why such an interest in New Zealand? Because it is a sophisticated, English speaking market, says McWilliam.

"It is more advanced than the UK in terms of uptake and PC penetration and it has all the things investors like - a good legal system, stable government, a stable economy and an educated population."

McWilliam says eVentures' investment will be split roughly between business-to-business (30 per cent), business-to-consumer (25 per cent), and infrastructure companies (25 per cent) and it will also sink money into the wireless market.

Between 5 and 8 per cent will be spent on early investment in New Zealand companies, with early bird New Zealand companies having wasted no time in faxing business proposals to the company's Parnell base. eVentures chief technology officer Tim Mew says the proposals are on hold until a plan has been set in place to deal with them. However, McWilliam says: "We hope people will come to us before anyone else because we can establish them in New Zealand and take them to the rest of the world."

Meanwhile, eVentures is readying its first batch of overseas entrants to the local market. E-Loan, a 50-50 joint venture with US online lending and mortgage reseller E-Loan, has four local banks lined up and will launch in June with former Farmers Financial Services chief executive Bruce Gordon at the helm.

Contests2Win, an Indian promotion company which designs and runs online competitions, will launch in the next two months.

Others on the horizon are Medibuy, an online tendering and procurement system for hospitals; MessageMedia, a direct mail house that collates and manages e-mail advertising; Internet telephony company Net2Phone; and, an e-tailer offering a range of consumer products.

McWilliam admits that the fluctuating stock market has taken "the gloss off business-to-consumer" of late but he thinks it will bounce back.

"The Nasdaq is close to what its peak was . . . Whether we hit bad times or good times doesn't matter to us. When the market falls we can invest cheaply."

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