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Online Travel Service Company to List in London
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Et-China.com International Holdings, an online travel service company based in South China's Guangdong Province, will float shares on AIM, London's second board, on July 31 and aims to raise 42 million pounds, sources said.

The flotation will make Et-China the third Chinese travel operator publicly traded overseas, following Ctrip.com International Ltd and eLong Inc, which are already listed on NASDAQ.

Et-China previously aimed to raise 12.5 million pounds. It has now set the price at 1.27 pounds per share and upgraded the expected proceeds to 42 million pounds.

Ctrip launched an initial public offering in December 2003 with a price of $18 per share. It closed at $84.99 on Monday. eLong's share dropped to $10.27 on Monday compared with an IPO price of $13.5 in October 2004.

The London flotation will enable Et-China to better compete with Ctrip and eLong to stake out a bigger share in a booming online travel service market.

In 2005, 1.6 million people in China booked travel services online such as airline tickets, hotel rooms and travel products, according to Shanghai-based iResearch Consulting Group.

Last year the figure climbed to 2.75 million and iRsearch projected it to hit 5.7 million and 9 million in 2008 and 2010.

Et-China claims itself as the third-largest online travel service operator in the country and No 1 in South China, its home turf.

Et-China focuses more on corporate users like Shell China and Kodak China and hopes to become a full service provider after an overseas flotation.

By 2006 it sold nearly 800,000 airline tickets, 660,000 hotel rooms and packaged tour services to more than 710,000 people.

Investors in Et-China include Gandhara and Cendant in the United States and Mintpine Pty Ltd in Australia, China Southern Airlines and Hong Kong's I-cable.

Cedant has been acquired by Blackstone and renamed as Travelport. Cedant invested in online travel service operator Aoyou.com, partnering with China Youth Travel Service but in May pulled out partly because Aoyou has been making losses.

Et-China recorded a sales revenue of 3.5 billion yuan last year compared with around 2.5 billion yuan the year before, according to company documents. It has been operating a joint venture with China Southern Airlines, which sold the first e-ticket in China.

London-based investment bank and stockbroker Seymour Pierce has been nominated as the adviser and broker for Et-China's London flotation.

About 48 mainland companies are listed in London's AIM.

(China Daily July 26 2007) 

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