Fool.com: Living La Website Loca (Fool Plate Special) August 10, 1999

FOOL PLATE SPECIAL
An Investment Opinion

Living La Website Loca

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)
August 10, 1999

Entertainment powerhouse Sony (NYSE: SNE), home to hip-swaying teen idol Ricky Martin, is looking to cash in even further on the international Latin music craze -- online. The company announced it was taking a minority stake in Yupi.com, a Website catering to the Latin American community. With more than six million monthly visitors, one publicly traded winner here is IFX Corp. (Nasdaq: FUTR), the Miami-based venture capital firm that bought an almost 10% stake in the site, along with its sister site Ciudad Futura, for a paltry $3 million back in May.

Since then online companies with an international flavor have been all the rave. Over the past month China.com (Nasdaq: CHINA), Internet Initiative of Japan (Nasdaq: IIJI) and Israeli online access provider Internet Gold (Nasdaq: IGLD) have had blazing IPO's despite a lukewarm reception for stateside e-stocks.

To put IFX's coup in perspective, when its much younger rival Quepasa.com (Nasdaq: PASA) went public in June its shares peaked just shy of valuing the company at a half-billion dollars. Then again, Que Pasa -- Spanish for "What's Happening" -- might be asking itself that very question since the shares closed yesterday below their original $12 offering price yesterday.

But Sony has big plans for Yupi. Beyond Ricky Martin, the music label is also the home of domestically proven Hispanic recording artists like Gloria Estefan and Mariah Carey. And, lest we bicker over ethnocentricities, Yupi will certainly not suffer for also serving as a Latin American gateway to other Sony pop stars like Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, and Billy Joel. While the site may serve as merely a Sony promotional tool at first that can change quickly. Sony seems bent on establishing a global distribution network online and Yupi looks to be the Latin American beneficiary.

Sony, along with Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), has made major headway into the online world this summer with the announced acquisition of CDNow (Nasdaq: CDNW). The recording industry, which once feared the emergence of the Internet's power and one-click piracy, now seems to be embracing the medium. No sooner than Sony can belt out, "I feel a premonition" -- it has become a new media pioneer.