Locally based portals operator China.com is seen by analysts as a possible merger partner for Sydney-based Internet-solutions provider LibertyOne. LibertyOne provides Internet consulting, e-commerce and Internet content services mainly in Australia and New Zealand. The company said yesterday it was in 'discussions which may lead to a merger', in response to enquiries by the Australian Stock Exchange on the company's recent sharp share price rises. 'We are unable to disclose any details and no terms have been agreed yet,' said chief operating officer Allan Hyde. China.com officials declined to comment. LibertyOne has exclusive rights to develop Web sites for United States-based At Home Excite in the Asia-Pacific region. Mr Hyde said the company was targeting the roll out of Excite sites in New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore within the next six months, and in the Greater China region within the next year. Warburg Dillon Read analyst Kim Yong-moon said LibertyOne appeared to be eager to follow in the footsteps of other US companies in its plans for Asia. 'Most of the top US portals have been stepping up their expansion in the Asian market in recent weeks,' Mr Kim said. He cited Yahoo!'s link-up with Founder Group to operate a mainland Web site guide, America Online's (AOL) co-operation with China.com to offer an Internet service in Hong Kong, and Lycos' joint venture with Singapore Telecom to expand its service in Asia. Another analyst said: 'China.com, which is licensed . . . to operate in Australia and other Asian countries, may use LibertyOne's strong presence in Australia to help it expand there.' However, he said China.com might have to take into consideration the Asia expansion plan of AOL - a direct competitor of At Home Excite - as AOL has an 8 per cent stake in China.com.