* UCWeb says has more than 80 million users in China
* Core product is Web broweser optimised for mobile handsets
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By Melanie Lee
BEIJING, Nov 3 Chinese mobile Internet company UCWeb said on Tuesday that it was aiming to list overseas to cash in on a strong appetite among investors looking for the next online sensation in the world's biggest Internet and mobile market.
Venture-funded UCWeb, which has more than 80 million users in China and about 380 staff, would like to make an offering in Hong Kong or on the Nasdaq, where most of China's listed Internet companies now trade, chief executive Yu Yongfu told Reuters in an interview.
"I believe that within the next three years we will definitely list. We have to see how our business is expanding and other market factors," Yu said on the sidelines of one of China's top Internet conferences taking place this week in Beijing.
Yu said UCWeb was an industry leader for its core product, a free Internet browser optimised for use on cellphones.
He added that venture capital firms Ceyuan Ventures and Morningside Group invested about $10 million in UCWeb in 2007, while Alibaba Group, parent of Alibaba.com 1688.HK, made an investment in May.
China is the world's largest Internet market, with 235 million users, and its largest mobile market, with about 700 million subscribers.
After much delay, the country recently began rolling out third-generation (3G) mobile services, which allow for easy Internet use over mobile phones through the country's three mobile carriers, China Mobile (0941.HK), China Unicom (0762.HK) and China Telecom (0728.HK).
"If 3G is going to take off in such a big way in China, I believe the number of 3G users will rise exponentially and many are going to use the Internet on their mobiles," Yu said, adding that his company was testing a revenue model based on advertising and Internet value-added services. Yu said UCWeb was profitable withe tens of millions of yuan last year in revenue, declining to give an exact figure.
China's mobile Internet sector has been drawing a growing number of companies, with search leaders Google (GOOG.O) and Baidu (BIDU.O) developing mobile products, along with start-ups like UCWeb, which has developed an Internet browser optimised for mobile phones. [nSHA11224] [nHKG142219]
(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Chris Lewis)
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