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Tom.Com To List On-Line Subsidiary

by Mary Swire, Investors Offshore, Hong Kong

29 December 2003

Hong Kong conglomerate was finally given permission last week by Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing (HKEx) to spin off its Internet unit, Tom Online, which has developed a range of mainland on-line services.

The company announcement that it had submitted an application to the stock exchange on Christmas Eve for a separate Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) listing of Tom Online shares, but said that final decisions had yet to be made on the timing of the listing. HKEx had previously refused permission because Tom Online includes recently-acquired subsidiaries without the requisite two years trading record, but the company threatened to bypass HKEx and go straight to Nasdaq.

Now it is likely that there will be a global offering including at least Nasdaq and GEM components. "The exact structure of the proposed spin-off will be decided by the directors in due course" company secretary Angela Mak said in the announcement, adding that it will likely be a global offering. Citigroup is the lead underwriter.

HKEx has however required to offer existing stockholders access to Tom Online shares either by way of a dividend or through a preferential application process. In a massively hyped IPO in 2000, shares of started trading on the five-month-old GEM after the stock exchange reduced its financial track record requirement from two years to one year and relaxed other rules in order to compete with Nasdaq.

Tom Online competes against mainland operators Sina, Netease and Sohu, all with Nasdaq listings which have powered ahead this year. In the four years since Tom-com's listing, it has made more than 30 acquisitions, including a number of mainland media companies.

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