The latest casualty of Australian internet company LibertyOne’s collapse is its transtasman online auction arm uBid.
New Zealand's uBid.co.nz and Australia's uBid.com.au have closed down. The managing director for both New Zealand and Australian sites, Chris Hitching, was unavailable for comment. The current Australian chief executive of LibertyOne Marcelle Anderson was out of the country and unreachable — staff at LibertyOne’s Sydney office were unsure when she would return.
UBid.co.nz was launched in February and offered a different take on the online auction model: rather than individuals selling second-hand goods, uBid.co.nz offered new electronic goods, IT equipment, sporting gear as well as homeware.
Rivals didn't believe the market was saturated. “There’s no reason why New Zealand can’t sustain two or even more online auction companies. Overseas there’s no problem,” says TradeMe spokesman Rowan Simpson. TradeMe is New Zealand’s largest online auction house.
Both uBid.co.nz and uBid.com.au were run under licence from the US giant auction house, uBid. That site points to the Australian site as the first offshore uBid site to be established, but says nothing about its closure. “In a marketplace that changes more often than the Chicagoland [sic] weather, we are very proud of our ability to maintain a well-established position within the industry,” the site says.
LibertyOne’s six monthly financial report, released in September, reported $AUS8.8 million in losses. The result foreshadowed the company’s break-up. Zivo, the web development arm of the company, would be retained, but everything else including uBid was to be sold or closed down.
It was hoped uBid’s parent company, CMGi, would acquire uBid’s Asian assets, including both sites, but that did not happen. In its annual report, Anderson said, “uBid had been LibertyOne’s biggest ongoing cash drain.”
In September it was rumoured that local venture capital firm IT Capital could be interested in purchasing the New Zealand end of the Zivo operation but IT Capital refuted this. "I think it's wishful thinking on [Liberty's] part. There is no foundation in the rumour," said IT Capital managing director Keith Philips.