Asia-Pacific Rim surpasses Europe in e-transactions

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B-to-b e-commerce transactions in Asia and the Pacific Rim hit $36.2 billion in 2000, topping Europe by $10 billion, according to a new report. The findings run counter to most previous reports, which placed Europe ahead of Asia.

The survey, "The eCommerce: B2B Report," also found that per-employee IT spending at U.S. financial services and insurance companies far outstrips that of other industries.

B-to-b e-commerce in Asia and the Pacific Rim is also expected to outpace European volume this year before falling behind in 2002, according to the report by eMarketer Inc., a New York-based research firm.

Asia figures will nearly double to $68.6 billion this year, versus $52.4 billion in Europe, eMarketer predicts. In 2002 the turnaround will begin, with Europe projected to hit $132.7 billion and Asia $121.2 billion. From there the gap widens, with Europe forecast to total $797.3 billion and Asia $300.6 billion in 2004. B-to-b e-commerce volume in North America, meanwhile, hit $159.2 billion in 2000 and is projected to reach $316.8 billion this year, $563.9 billion in 2002 and $1.6 trillion in 2004.

Bounce back from crisis

Asia’s b-to-b boom can be attributed to the ongoing recovery from its economic crisis, that started in 1997. Enthusiasm for IT spending among Asian executives is also a factor. Asia-based businesses, particularly in Hong Kong, are keen on exchanges and telecom projects, which tie them closer to U.S. and European markets. And many U.S. companies, such as IBM Corp., Intel Corp., Merrill Lynch & Co. and Oracle Corp., are also spending aggressively on Asian b-to-b projects.

The U.S. companies are attracted by Asian governments’ (with the notable exception of China) hands-off approach to regulating b-to-b and their fast-moving business ethos. "There is a freewheeling sense of capitalism there, especially in Hong Kong, that’s much closer to American culture," said Steve Butler, eMarketer senior analyst and the survey’s author. "You don’t see that in Europe."

Indeed, the European Union’s increasingly involved approach to regulating e-commerce is scaring some U.S. executives. But b-to-b volume in Europe is expected to take off once the EU’s positions become clear and when venture capital investment by U.S. companies begins to bear fruit.

The report also notes a gap in per-employee IT spending between U.S. financial services and insurance companies and those in other industries. Financial services companies spent $13,628 per worker in 2000; insurers spent $12,731. Telecom was the next closest industry, at $6,405. Media companies spent an average of $2,251 and electronics companies, $1,568.

EMarketer’s findings were based on aggregated data of other research firms.

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