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Singapore aims for top billing

A banking consortium plans a Net-based billing and payment service.

Singapore, Asia's well-wired city-state of just 3.4 million people, may emerge as an early battleground for Internet billing.

A consortium of Singapore banks today announced it will launch an Internet-based billing and payment service by early next year, using IBM software and hardware. But Netscape announced Monday that Citibank would use Netscape's new online billing software--also in Singapore.

Singapore's Network of Electronic Transfers (NETS), a consortium of seven Singapore banks, already offers a network of kiosks for ticket purchases and payments, a smart card for e-cash, and an Internet-based credit card processing system.

Its e-billing service, called e-BX, allows companies to post bills and invoices to their customers through a secure Web site. Customers can log in to view and pay their bills through participating banks.

Citibank will pilot its system, using Netscape's new BillerXpert software, early next year in Singapore, but it intends to expand the system throughout Southeast Asia from that Singapore base.

Citibank also is an equity partner in TransPoint, an online billing joint venture (formerly called MSFDC) with Microsoft and First Data Corporation, a payment processor.

Reuters contributed to this report.