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Acer looks to Net for post-hardware profits

Looking for US cash to fund Asia-oriented Internet services

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Acer, like the world+dog, plans to expand beyond its traditional hardware markets into the Internet business, the company's co-founder said today. George Huang, Acer's corporate general controller, told Reuters that the company wants to become a major player in the Asia Internet market. The report paints Huang's comments as a new shift in focus, but Acer has clearly been thinking along these lines for some time. Last year, chairman Stan Shih told Reuters he predicted Acer's hardware business would last only ten years. In December, Acer offloaded its semiconductor business to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. And the company has to date invested $50 million in 16 Net firms. However, according to Huang, that sum is set to rise to $500 million over the next two to three years. The focus, he said, will be on the Asian market: "The Internet... is very culture-oriented. Lots of content must be localised or regionalised, and Acer has had great experience in this region." That said, the money will be coming from the West. Huang said Acer's Internet business, to be known as Acer Digital Services, will seek funding from the US and ultimately be listed on Nasdaq. The IPO should take place by the end of the year. ®

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