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Priceline expanding into Asia

In partnership with Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., Priceline will debut a "name your price" service offering leisure airline tickets, the companies plan to announce tomorrow.

Priceline.com is heading overseas for the first time, teaming up with Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. to launch a "name your price" Web site in Asia.

The new site, which has not yet been named, will debut later this year and begin by offering leisure airline tickets, the companies plan to announce tomorrow. Priceline will license technology to the new company and help fund it.

The partnership represents the first time the Norwalk, Conn.-based company has targeted its services at foreign consumers. The new firm will focus on Hutchison strongholds such as China, India, Taiwan and Singapore, but will not serve Japan.

"Asia is a market where you want a very strong partner, one who understands the region," Priceline spokesman Mike Darcy said. "Hutchison is certainly one of the largest and most well-known companies in the region."

Priceline's service allows customers to specify the price they are willing to pay for an airline ticket or hotel room, matching hopeful buyers with discount sellers. Over the last year and a half, the company has branched into home mortgages and new cars, and recently launched a new "yard sale" site for second-hand goods.

Priceline plans to continue its international expansion in the near future, Darcy said. "We certainly have an interest in all the major markets throughout the world," he said.

Initially, Priceline will not own any part of the new Asian business. Instead, Priceline will purchase a note that it will be able to covert into a 50 percent stake in the new company at a later date.

Priceline's partnership with Hutchison is still subject to approval by both companies' shareholders.