Google bid snubbed by Vietnamese

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Vietnamese-language search engine Socbay has turned down a takeover bid from global giant Google, according to the website of Forbes magazine.

Socbay chief executive Nguyen Xuan Tai said that Google’s offer was only about half of the company’s real value and figured Google would come back with a better offer if they wanted a short cut to entering the market for a search engine in Vietnamese.

Socbay.com is owned by Naiscorp Information Technology Service Joint Stock Co, which was formed in 2006 by a group of young Vietnamese IT talents. It provides Vietnamese language web search services, including images, music, dictionaries and classified ads.

About 600,000 to 1.2 million people access the site everyday, according to the firm’s figures.

"Google has a deep interest in the search engine market in Viet Nam and expects to upgrade its local-language search quality and expand its business here," said Naiscorp deputy director Ho Minh Duc.

The two companies would continue to negotiate, Duc said, hinting at the possibility of a merger on the condition of remaining involved in future Vietnamese search engine development.

Socbay has not yet turned a profit, but Tai and his venture capitalist believe that Socbay could break through within three years by focusing on mobile web searches, an area in which Google does not yet dominate in Viet Nam, and by refining Vietnamese-language searches as local internet content expands.

Socbay could have a chance, according to Forbes, which noted the success of Chinese search engine Baidu against Google in the local-language search market. Baidu also once turned down a takeover offer from Google in 2005.

"I belive there will be many other Vietnamese IT firms may receive invitations to co-operate from international companies, not only in capital but in technological collaboration, as well," said Duc.

In addition to Naiscorp, other local tech startups are drawing attention from international venture capital firms.

IDG Ventures Viet Nam, a US$100 million technology venture capital fund, was set up in 2006 in co-operation with Softbank China and India Holdings, while DFJ VinaCapital Technology, has backed 40 Vietnamese start-ups, including Socbay.

Many of these have originated from existing ideas but been developed to suit local needs.

Vinabook.com, an online bookstore with 200,000 customers, has followed the leads of Amazon.com and China’s Dangdang.com and aims to become the market’s leading online retailer, selling not only books, but also software, movies, music, and calendars.

Funded by IDG and Softbank, Peacesoft’s online marketplace Chodientu.vn, launched in 2001, took off from eBay’s concept and has grown to more than 500,000 registered users, with a goal of a million by next year.

A digital communications revolution was underway in Viet Nam, Forbes said. Of the country’s 86 million people, 26 per cent have access to the internet, three million surf the web with broadband, and 32 million have mobile phones – with 3G mobile technology coming soon.

Source: VietNamNet/Vietnam News
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