Locals score global hat-trick

Local broadband internet provider Inter-touch announced today that it had beaten major US competitors to secure a 120,000-room deal with global hospitality giant Bass Hotels & Resorts.

Inter-touch's president and CEO, Terence Nickolls, said the deal was the largest ever signed for guestroom internet technology outside North America, and was a great export win for an Australian company.

He said that Inter-touch was now the world's largest provider of broadband internet access services to the hospitality industry, with the number of hotel rooms contracted by the company now standing at 150,000 in the Asia-Pacific, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin American regions.

"The contract with Bass validates our global position and our rapid growth and development," Nickolls said.

Under the agreement, signed in Atlanta in the US, Inter-touch has secured preferred vendor status to provide its in-room broadband internet services and advanced e-commerce platforms at Bass Hotels & Resorts, with brand names including Inter-Continental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express, and Staybridge Suites by Holiday Inn. Installation at several Bass properties has already commenced with the full rollout scheduled to be completed within two years.

Meanwhile, local investment bank The Harrington Partnership has just completed a major foray into investment banking and advisory services in the People's Republic of China.

This follows the structuring of a deal to launch Internet Enterprises, a Hong Kong-based e-commerce investment company established to pursue "promising" e-commerce joint ventures in China in the media, marketing and travel sectors. The company has already struck its first deal, a joint venture with Guangdong-based China Travel Services, to establish a major online travel services company in China.

Geoff Baker, the managing director of The Harrington Partnership, referred to the deal as a "breakthrough" and said Australian companies needed to take urgent action on e-commerce investment opportunities currently available in Asia. "To be a viable internet or e-commerce company, you must have an Asian growth strategy or you will miss out on a massive expanding market," he said.

"Right now, we have the opportunity to beat our American and European competitors in this sector because they are playing in their own booming markets. But Australian companies need to act more quickly to capture e-commerce opportunities in Japan, South Korea and China."

Hoping to play a role is Dr Paul Twomey, former CEO of the Australian National Office of the Information Economy (NOIE), who today announced the formation of Argo P@cific, a high-level international advisory and investment firm to help companies build global internet and technology businesses.

Twomey, who is working with Ira Magaziner, former domestic policy adviser to US president Bill Clinton, said that while Australia was one of the leading producers of innovative products and companies, these companies often lack the international contacts necessary for building globally successful businesses.

"Many Australian companies, particularly IT-based organisations, are undervalued due to a perceived lack of global links and opportunities for their businesses," he said.

Argo P@cific's aim is to remove this barrier and provide these companies with the opportunity to build strong Asia-Pacific and global strategies from an Australian base.

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