* Expects 1 mln Weibo users in HK, up 65 pct from end-2010
* Sees Weibo as a means to feed users into Sina’s main site
* Politically sensitive material from HK users blocked
By Huang Yuntao and Kelvin Soh
HONG KONG, Jan 13 (Reuters) - China’s Weibo, the Twitter-like site run by Sina Corp (SINA.O), expects the number of users in Hong Kong to rise by 65 percent to about 1 million by the end of 2011.
Weibo already has about 600,000 users in Hong Kong out of about 50 million in the greater China region, many of whom use the service to keep up-to-date with the TV personalities, Sina’s general manager for Hong Kong Meg Lee told Reuters in an interview.
“Many web users in China sign up for the system to keep up with the stars like Jackie Chan,” Lee said, referring to the Hong Kong martial arts actor.
Twitter does not give a breakdown of its users by location.
Weibo in Hong Kong will be used to feed users into Sina’s broader network, and is not meant to be a direct source of revenue for the company in the short term, Lee said.
“It’s about enhancing the user experience right now and I’m not too concerned about the finances at this moment,” she said. “Our CEO has told us before that we don’t expect Weibo to have a huge impact on our finances within the next five years.”
Sina disappointed Wall Street with a soft outlook for its fourth quarter, citing a slowdown in advertising spending for certain categories and sending its U.S. shares lower. [ID:nTOE6AG021]
Many social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are banned on the Chinese mainland, and censors frequently scour approved websites such as Weibo to weed out posts they feel are controversial.
Users in Hong Kong who try to enter posts related to issues such as the recent Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo into Weibo will still be blocked by Sina’s servers which are located on the mainland.
“There are rules in every country, and we have to understand and abide by those rules if we want to operate there,” Lee said.
(Editing by Erica Billingham)
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