Latin America Continues Rush to Web

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MIAMI -- The Internet continues to crackle across Latin America as smaller countries such as Colombia, Chile and Venezuela follow the rush into Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.


Here is a rundown of Web-related events that were reported in July:


Chile's Banco de Credito e Inversiones records 600,000 individual online transactions and 300,000 by businesses a month and expects growth rates to rise through next year.


After that, a bank spokesman said, the advent of wireless application protocol and other wireless technology should lead to e-banking consolidation as mobile banking becomes more important.


Santander Chile, a Chilean financial group, opened a portal in July to give bank clients access to products offered by companies affiliated with the group.


Web site visitors can use the portal to handle a string of personal financial transactions -- banking, pensions and insurance. The company plans to invest up to $6 million in its Internet operations this year.


Regional online retailer Alcotso.com now allows customers to pay with American Express and MasterCard credit cards after reaching an agreement with the issuers. The service is being implemented with EG-Pay software.


The Web merchant has portals in Spanish and Portuguese and is active in Colombia where the credit card access agreement was first reported in a local newspaper.


Calle22.com, a Colombian entertainment portal is expanding into Argentina and Mexico this month. Content covers music, painting, literature and entertainment.


It plans to localize content to fit each new market it enters. Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador are the next expansion targets, provided a second round of financing in the United States is successful.


In Atlanta TPPX announced plans July 28 to develop a business-to-business pulp and paper Internet marketplace focused on Latin America's pulp and paper industry. It promised to revolutionize the way paper and pulp is traded in Latin America.


The company said it had "secured initial funding from private investors to begin site development" and it estimates that the market is worth $35 billion. The industry currently buys and sells goods through conventional methods.


The electronic site, the company said, will lower costs and increase efficiency. The site, it added, "will operate as an open, neutral marketplace in which the forces of supply and demand set the level of pricing." It will be operated in Spanish, English and Portuguese.


Endesa, a Spanish power company listed on the New York Stock Exchange and active across Latin America, plans to launch a real estate Web site in November.


An Endesa spokesman explained that developers must divulge a lot of information about their building plans to local power companies. Since Endesa is active in real estate centers as Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Lima and Rio, it has good data on real estate development.


The company is still working on the site's business plan but has a name for it -- Webhogar -- and expects to spend $15 million to $20 million setting it up. The money will cover technology, first-year promotion and some content.


South-Net, an Internet business incubator focused on developing BTB and business-to-consumer businesses in Latin America, is shifting its emphasis to help US companies get started on the Web in the region.


The company, in which the Southern Cross Group is a major shareholder, specializes in raising capital needed to support a business at various stages of development.


In recent months it has specialized in helping dot-coms entering Argentina and Brazil. Among the companies in which it has taken a stake are DeAutos.com, Construmega.com, HotelDo.com, Foundation.com and Banner-Link.com.


It has already realized that image help is needed to make the company stand out from the horde of dot-coms and other Internet entrepreneurs swarming into Latin America.


Provee.com, a Mexican e-business hub for small- and medium-sized businesses, plans to launch BTB and BTC channels next month -- in effect electronic catalogs for the purchase of a variety of Provee products.


Provee provides registered users virtual office services that range from e-mail to accessing news and product information. Some 400 companies have registered to use these services.


The company launched in June 1999 with a business plan to invest $10 million over two years and to expand into the ABC countries -- Argentina, Brazil and Chile.
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