Hutchison-Priceline.com, the Li Ka-shing-controlled online ticket agency, is to launch services in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan this quarter, according to a company source. An executive said the regional tourism market was set to rebound in the second quarter of the year and the whole industry would benefit. The company previously delayed its launch in the wake of last year's economic downturn and the impact of the September terrorist attacks in the United States on the world travel industry. Under the plan, Hutchison-Priceline, 55 per cent owned by Hutchison Whampoa and 45 per cent by Priceline.com, would test the ticketing system from next week before its launch in Hong Kong by early next month. Mr Li also has a 30 per cent stake in the United States' Priceline.com. After its Hong Kong launch, the firm would start a similar service in Singapore and Taiwan in two months. It is understood that the company, which was capitalised at US$20 million, did not enlist any local partners in Singapore and Taiwan. Alfredo Gangotena, chief executive of the joint venture, has about 40 staff in Hong Kong. Hutchison-Priceline is about to implement a 'name-your-own-price' model in Asia, where consumers can bid for air tickets and hotels in the region. A company source said it would use the model created by Priceline.com, except for adding more customer representatives to help non-Internet users. Asian travellers were still more accustomed to phone inquiries, Mr Gangotena said. Priceline.com has claimed it sold 10 million airline tickets and hotel-room nights in the US and Britain last year. The company, which is projected to turn profitable this year, was struggling after making an US$18 million provision for its affiliate in October 2000 and was forced to close down some non-core operations. It was under these circumstances that Mr Li bought into the company in February, injecting US$73.5 million for a 17.5 per cent stake. He gradually increased his stake to 30 per cent.