iBC makes investment in a singed market

iBusiness Corporation (iBC), an internet venture capital joint venture between Cheung Kong, HSBC, Hutchison Whampoa and Hang Seng Bank makes only its fourth investment since launch early last year.
iBC has made an investment in TradeTextile.com (TradeTextile), a B2B trading hub and e-enabling solutions provider for the textile and apparel industry headquartered in Hong Kong. The undisclosed investment sum makes iBC the second largest shareholder of TradeTextile, with a 28% share of the company.

This investment is only the fourth by the joint venture company, which was launched in early 2000 with an initial investment of $380 million by the four prominent shareholders. In March 2000, iBC formed i21, an application service provider, with Excel Technology International, taking a majority stake in the joint venture. Then, iBC announced a partnership with HKET (Holding) Ltd to develop and operate a job search portal, careertimes.com.hk, in May 2000. iBC took a 40% stake in the job search portal.

Also in May, iBC joined Madrona Venture Group, and Hutchinson Whampoa to provide second round financing, worth $10 million, for VLINX, an e-commerce portal that enables turnkey, Door-to-Door (D2D) international trading of consumer products. 

Edmund Ip, executive director and CEO of iBC, remains cautious in determining whether its few investments signals difficulty finding good internet and e-commerce companies to invest in in Asia. "It's important to realize that we have no pressure to invest, we do not want to invest for the sake of it…This is only the beginning," he says. "We are beginning to see more meaningful businesses emerge…We will be more aggressive…"

With TradeTextile.com, iBC is banking on China's WTO entry to stimulate growth in the textile industry and boost the company's e-commerce business. "China's pending entry into WTO and the changes which are to take place in textile quotas will stimulate further growth in the textile industry," he comments. "The strong fundamentals underlying TradeTextile should provide a basis for robust business growth and a warranted path to profitability." 

TradeTextile has two principal business activities: the operation of a B2B exchange and the provision of application services. So far, the company boasts over 8000 members, the majority of whom are import and export companies and manufacturers in Hong Kong and Mainland China. The company expects to be profitable within 12-15 months.

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