After delay, Priceline's Asian venture set

Though the service was supposed to launch at the end of last year, the site will be unveiled in Hong Kong on Tuesday--despite prevailing economic uncertainties.

Priceline.com will launch its Hong Kong joint venture Tuesday despite prevailing economic uncertainties.

The venture, Hutchison-Priceline, was formed with Hong Kong conglomerates Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong in January 2001.

According to Hutchison-Priceline, the Web site will be unveiled during a news conference in Hong Kong. The event is expected to be officiated by Hutchison Whampoa managing director Canning Fok and Hutchison-Priceline CEO Alfredo Gangotena.

The service launch is long overdue, as it was initially slated for the end of last year.

In an earlier report, a Hutchison-Priceline representative said the company's business in Asia would offer reverse-auction services similar to those in the United States, through a "demand collection" pricing system, where consumers name the price they want to pay for a product or service offered online. If an agreeable merchant can be found, Priceline purchases the product and charges it to the customer's credit card.

"We will adopt the 'name-your-own-price' business model that was successfully introduced by Priceline in the U.S., and we will adapt it to the local strategy and customer needs, with localized Web sites," the representative said. Priceline owns 70 percent of the Asian unit.

Regarding country-specific sites, the company had said that initial targets would include Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, as they have high Internet penetration rates.

Irene Tham reported from Singapore.