Seek, Australia's leading online recruitment firm, has paid $25m
for a stake in Zhaopin, one of China's largest online classified ad
firms.

Telstra, Australia's dominant telco, made an even bolder move into China last month, buying a majority stake in SouFun Holdings, which runs SouFou.com, the leading property website in China, for $254m.

These
shrewd moves show how Australia is finally starting to leverage its
much-vaunted proximity to China — at least in geographic terms. As
with the west, online advertising of jobs and real estate is relatively
well established in Australia. However, the same cannot be said for
China — at least not yet — and the two deals exploit this comparative
advantage.

seek logo.jpgSeek, which recently listed on the Australian stock exchange, has paid $25m for a 25% stake in Zhaopin, according to Australia's The Age.

The
Australia firm previously limited its expansion to the English-speaking
world, namely New Zealand and the UK — it runs a niche site for
Aussies seeking work in the UK.

Moving into China's fledgling online recruitment market marks a bold and some would say risky departure.

Nevertheless,
Seek's chief executive Andrew Bassat believes the rewards outweigh the
risks as the market is at a similar stage of development to the
Australian market five years ago — meaning its ripe for the taking,
presumably.

The Chinese online employment market is expected to
grow from $US100m last year to $US500m by 2011, according to Ibis
Research figures quoted by the company.

Zhaopin, based in
Beijing, was established in 1997 and offers more than 200,000 jobs in
IT, finance and executive search. Its revenues are around $30m and
growing at more than 50% each year.

Its main rival is China HR,
40% owned by US giant Monster. Monster and Seek have been battling it
out in Australia for some time; not they are set to compete of a bigger
stage. Monster recently snatched Seek's marketing director, Tony Balfour, to be president of Monster's Asia Pacific region.

Interestingly,
Balfour will be based in China. Because of its buoyant job market and
growing internet penetration, Monster sees China as one of the most
attractive online recruitment markets in AsiaPac. So does Seek,
apparently.

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