BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : JULY 10, 2000 ISSUE
INTERNATIONAL -- FINANCE

Seoul's Web Spawns a Comeback Kid (int'l edition)


Involvement in a spectacular business failure in Asia doesn't necessarily confer the kind of notoriety that it can in America. Just ask Andre Lee. He was the wunderkind who headed the fixed-income group at Hong Kong's Peregrine Investments Holdings, the ''man who could sell snow to Eskimos,'' as a former employee puts it. But in late 1997 an Indonesian company defaulted on a $265 million loan his department had made and triggered Peregrine's collapse in January, 1998. Soon after, Lee returned home to Seoul to try to rebuild his image with an Internet business. He needn't have worried about his reputation--most people here barely recognize his name.

As for the Internet venture, 01 Inc., Lee, 37, will launch it in July. He plans to offer a service that allows small and medium-size businesses around the world to design and process financial deals online. Once a company has structured a stock or bond issue, for example, it can sign up investors online, too. The idea is to cut costs by reducing or eliminating the role of investment bankers. The software, called DealComposer, is ''like an investment banker in a box,'' says Lee. ''You'll have the same tools and access to networks that the big boys have.''

Lee says investors include two Korean conglomerates, Hyundai Group and Kolon Group. He'll offer DealComposer free and collect a commission from any company that raises money through his site. ''The idea is good,'' says an American investment banker in Seoul. ''But whether he can deliver products that users feel comfortable with is another matter.''

QUICK DRAW. There's a certain irony to Lee's new business. At the peak of his Peregrine career, he was the head of a 250-person operation that raised more than $36 billion in debt, securities, and money-market products. ''Lee was a wild man,'' says a former employee. ''He was known for making quick decisions,'' says another. In 1996, Lee's team accounted for nearly one-third of Peregrine's operating profit. But it was the bank's aggressive expansion that helped push it over the edge.

Lee says Peregrine's failure taught him about the ''true nature'' of the investment banking business. He even recruited a veteran of another financial crisis to head his company's London office. Kevin Arnold ran the fixed-income unit at Russian investment bank Renaissance Capital Corp., which came close to collapsing when Moscow devalued its currency in 1998. ''It's extremely important to have people who have been through both good and bad times,'' says Lee.

That may be. But, in Seoul at least, few business people seem to care one way or the other.

By Moon Ihlwan in Seoul

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

BACK TO TOP
RELATED ITEMS
Return of a Hong Kong Highflier (int'l edition)

TABLE: On Shaky Ground

Seoul's Web Spawns a Comeback Kid (int'l edition)



INTERACT
E-Mail to Business Week Online

 
Copyright 2000-2009, Bloomberg L.P.
Terms of Use   Privacy Notice