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eBay, NEC team on Japanese auction site

The online auctioneer plants yet another flag in Asia, announcing a joint venture with the computer and communications company to market its trading services in Japan.

Online auctioneer eBay planted yet another flag in Asia today, announcing a joint venture with NEC to market its trading services in Japan.

NEC, a computer and communications company, will take an undisclosed equity stake in eBay Japan and plans to promote the site through its Internet service provider, personal computer products and offline marketing.

Asia is quickly becoming a hot spot for American e-commerce companies eyeing the region's expanding middle class. While conducting business in the area has its drawbacks--including inefficient payment methods, high Internet access costs, and delivery and technology infrastructure problems--companies are expanding to Asia at a furious pace.

Just last month, eBay teamed with, which will market eBay's new Chinatown auction service to Asian online customers., the site that allows customers to name their own prices for products and services, also recently said it was teaming with Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa to launch a "name your price" Web site in Asia. Not to be outdone, rival took a $5 million stake in Greg Manning Auctions, an online auctioneer with a presence in China.

The eBay Japan Web site is expected to launch within the next few weeks, the company said. The new site will be completely in Japanese, with support for trading in yen and specific Japanese category listings.

"We believe that teaming up with NEC will provide eBay Japan with the exposure and marketing support to make it an e-commerce leader in Asia," Meg Whitman, eBay's chief executive, said in a statement.

Merle Okawara, who was previously chairman and president of JC Foods, will head the new company.

Although Internet usage is still far from widespread in Asia because of access costs and infrastructure problems, it is expected to surge in the region, reaching about 12 percent of the population, or nearly 374 million people, by the end of 2005, according to consulting firm the Yankee Group.

Market research firm International Data Corp. forecasts that the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, will have about 21.8 million people connected to the Net spending a total of $2.2 billion by the year's end.