Chinese online game firm Shanda Networking expects to boost the number of employees by three-quarters next year as it tries to re-invent itself as a diversified media company, its chief executive said yesterday.

The Shanghai-based company would bump up its headcount about 75% to between 1,500 and 2,000 next year, from about 1,100 at present, chairman Timothy Chan said. That expansion would outpace a 77% increase this year and 33% jump in revenue expected next year, according to forecasts by DBS Vickers. Fuelling that growth is a mainland online gaming industry worth an estimated US$409 million this year, and expected to grow at an annual rate of about 46% between 2003 and 2006, according to DBS.

Shanda will expand its business both organically and through acquisitions, Chan said, adding that long-term goals could include forays in such far-flung industries as movies and music. The firm has also not ruled out bringing in an outside equity partner with technology or content specialization to complement Shanda's core game designing and operating businesses, he said.


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