Asia Online goes into administration

The local arm of Internet service provider, Asia Online was put into the hands of administrators on Wednesday, with operations rumoured to cease on November 8.

Scott Kershaw of KPMG was appointed administrator of the local operation, while Asia Online's New Zealand and Hong Kong operations were also launched into administration.

Official word from the company is that business will continue as usual at Asia Online, while Kershaw undertakes an 'urgent appraisal' of the company's activities, with a view to selling the business as a going concern.

"The directors' appointed an administrator because they believed that the company was or would become insolvent...The appointment of an administrator is an interim measure and provides a breathing space for an assessment of the future prospects of the business," the official statement said.

Meanwhile, Asia Online customers are being re-directed to competing ISP, OzEmail, where they are being told that OzEmail has scored the exclusive rights to mail forwarding for Asia Online customers, virtually locking in customers who wish to retain their existing email address.

"Please note that once Asia Online has ceased operations on November 8 2001, OzEmail will be the only ISP that can make it possible for you to receive email sent to your Asia Online address," reads the official statement from OzEmail.

As part of the deal, OzEmail is also offering to waive its regular $20 registration fee and credit any 30-day or more prepayment to Asia Online to new OzEmail accounts.

Beyond the official word, it has been reported by Asia Online staff that security guards stormed the company's Hong Kong office to clear out all staff, while the New Zealand operations have a mere 48 hours before they are required to close down under local legislation.

There were concerns about Asia Online's viability as far back as April, with a post to a site that tracks the demise of companies hinting at management struggles within the company. Ex-staffers at Asia Online have also established an online forum to air their grievances at www.exasiaonline.net, with a number of posts also indicating that trouble had been brewing for some time.

Meanwhile, the company boasted in a press release in August that it was on its way to profitability, noting that it was seeing month-on-month improvements to EBITDA and gross margins, while maintaining its revenues.

Through the first half of calendar year 2000, Asia Online changed its strategy from being primarily a consumer dialup Internet access provider to a dedicated corporate leased line provider. Since November last year the company had been concentrating on medium and large enterprises.

Neither Asia Online nor administrator Scott Kershaw had returned calls at the time of publication.

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