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Watson's Qixel gets the ball rolling

By Aimee McClinchy

Friday 5th May 2000

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Nasdaq-hopeful Qixel has hooked up with a major US internet industry player and is setting up offices across Asia as it prepares to take stakes in companies there.

Directed by Eric Watson's close-knit executive team of Evan Christian, Maurice Kidd and Greg Cross, Qixel plans to take a number of US technologies, mixing them with its local assets developments and fast-tracking the end result into infant Asian b2b companies.

With Mr Watson's personal vehicle Cullen Investments as major shareholder, Qixel Capital Group has been incorporated in the US and has set up its head office in San Mateo near San Francisco.

Over the past few weeks it has been running with US investors a private capital raising, which is due to close soon, but has still not made public its timeframe for listing on the Nasdaq index.

The initial local venture, Qixel Asia Pacific, owner of 46% of Advantage Group's shares and 60% of Wang and Auldhouse Computer Training, has now become an arm of Qixel Capital Group.

Qixel began as ePac late last year when Mr Watson, Mr Christian and Nick Gordon tipped their shares in Advantage into one vehicle.

Qixel Capital Group chief executive Greg Cross, also Advantage's chief executive, could not yet confirm with which US technology company Qixel had formed a partnership.

But he said other partners would follow, especially in the "pure-play internet area," and Qixel would then take those companies' technologies to pre-identified Asian companies, and form three-way joint ventures.

"Qixel will not own the companies but take substantial investments in the companies ranging between 25% and 60% stakes," Mr Cross said. "We act as an accelerator [of b2b initiatives], not an incubator."

"We chose to focus on Asia because the opportunity exists in the market for us. Business-to-business in the US has been huge and it has been an efficient market do to business within. In Asia that level of infrastructure has never existed - and suddenly it's appearing."

The web services Qixel's assets could supply were rare there, he said, while Advantage could localise US software which typically could not cope with Asian two-byte characters.

Mr Cross was setting up Qixel Asia, headquartered in Singapore, with arms also to be set up in Korea, Japan and Hong Kong. There were also plans for a Qixel UK arm.

Mr Cross reiterated Mr Watson's belief that working on a "clicks and mortar" policy was the best business model "because they have the revenues to grow very quickly and make more revenues."

Advantage shareholders will be offered the opportunity to participate in the Qixel IPO on the Nasdaq.

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