Shanda Networking is planning to list on Nasdaq, a decision aimed at tapping investors' demand for the country's fast-growing market for internet games, and one that could value China's largest online games company at about US$1 billion.

It is believed that the Shanghai-based company has appointed Goldman Sachs to prepare the listing, which could take place as early as the beginning of 2004, although it is understood the company has not decided how much to raise in the listing but is aiming for a market capitalization of about US$1 billion.

Shanda has 150m registered users who buy Rmb35 cards for 120 hours' playing time, or Rmb0.29 (3.5 US cents) an hour, the company said yesterday. Its best-selling game, The Legend, a fantasy epic, generates cash through sheer volume of online usage. Up to 1.02m users were playing Shanda's games online at any one time, Shanda said. Although these figures were unaudited, Shanda's dominant position in the online games market in China attracted $40m in investment from Softbank Japan in March. Analysts estimate revenues from online games in China, currently totaling $200m, could reach $900m within two years, with more than 12.6m paying players.

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