On-line trading may be the latest trend to find a home on the mainland, when investors next week receive their first opportunity to bid for shares electronically at auction. Further Internet-based trade might also soon be possible after MyWeb Inc.com of the United States signed a partnership deal that would allow it to become the first provider of on-line stock trading in the mainland. Next week's auction involves the sale of the legal-persons shares, a class of domestic shares that are non-tradeable and restricted to mainland institutions. Retail and foreign investors are prohibited from bidding, said auction organiser Shanghai International Auctions yesterday. The shares are in the form of collateral which were foreclosed by Shanghai-listed Shanghai Municipal Raw Water and unlisted Shanghai Bank, the result of a merger of the city's co-operatives, the auctioneers said yesterday. The municipal courts took possession of the shares on behalf of the shareholders. Although on-line auctions have yet to be used in the mainland, observers will be looking keenly at the results of the forthcoming auction for market perception of such transactions. The Internet stock sale will be held in Shanghai from Tuesday and run for four days. Those interested in bidding must pay a 100,000 yuan (about HK$93,000) deposit in advance in exchange for a password allowing access to the bidding process. MyWeb Inc.com is a New York-based maker of television set-top boxes that connect customers to the Internet. MyWeb will co-operate with China Sci-Tech International Trust and Investment, part of China SciTech Holdings, to provide on-line financial information to retail and institutional investors. The company hopes to be the first to allow mainland investors to trade stocks on the Internet. Securities regulators have yet to give their approval to the plan. 'It's a grey area,' said T.S. Wong, president and chief executive of MyWeb. The company will set up the infrastructure for on-line trading through a contract it signed last month with Beijing Telecom, a wholly owned subsidiary of China Telecom, which operates an estimated four million phone lines in the capital area.