EBay said tonight it is expanding to the Philippines. Some quick notes…The Philippines seriously lag their Southeast Asian counterparts when it comes to Internet access and e-commerce. Last year, there were just 9.4 million Internet users in the Philippines for a penetration rate of just 12 percent, according to IDC. This is not South Korea, where three-fourths of households have broadband connections. Moreover, the consumer e-commerce market is not very mature, reaching just half a billion dollars last year.

Part of the problem is the relative dearth of fixed phone lines in the country. In a country of nearly 80 million people, just seven million have phone lines. The twist, however, is that mobile phone use is extraordinarily strong. More than 20 million Filipinos have mobile phones, and SMS messaging is huge there.

On the plus side, the number of Internet users grew 38 percent last year, and consumer e-commerce grew by 83 percent.

“Still in the early stages of development, online shopping in the Philippines is growing quickly,” eBay said in its announcement. “According to IDC’s Internet Commerce Model (January 2004), business-to-consumer e-commerce is expected to grow from $828 million in 2004 to $2.9 billion in 2007.”

EBay is not charging individuals and small businesses to list items on its auction site, as it does in the U.S.. Ironically, that’s the same strategy that eBay’s Asian competitors have been using to try to steal away market share from the San Jose giant.

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