Online auction giant eBay's takeover of Chinese Internet trading operator EachNet signals a new era of growth for the mainland's e-commerce portals, says a Beijing-based information technology consultancy. The deal also marks how much the leading Chinese portals have shed the stigma of the dotcom fallout and developed sustainable business strategies, according to BDA China managing director Duncan Clark. 'We're now seeing all the portals enjoying a boom in business, despite the tough economy,' he said, adding that there was plenty of room for new and existing players to grow. EBay agreed on June 11 to acquire all the remaining shares it did not own in EachNet for US$150 million. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of this year. Silicon Valley-based eBay formed a relationship with EachNet in March last year, when it invested US$30 million for a 33 per cent stake in the Shanghai firm. 'EachNet has built a great business and is in a fantastic position to take advantage of the long-term growth prospects of e-commerce in China,' eBay chief executive Meg Whitman said. The state-run China Internet Network Information Centre estimates more than 59 million mainland consumers are online, making China the world's second-largest Internet population behind the United States. Research firm International Data Corp predicts that e-commerce in China will become a US$16 billion market by 2005. 'Although there is still plenty of work ahead for EachNet, eBay's involvement will get China's online trading community plugged into a global market,' Mr Clark said. EachNet co-founder, chairman and chief executive Bo Shao said: 'Online trading is making commerce in China more efficient, and is creating unprecedented opportunities for small businesses and consumers.' Mr Clark said the upward momentum was likely to spur the creation of more online trading activities to bolster the domestic economy. That growth could also further develop payment schemes for online transactions in China.