By Emil Danielyan
A Dutch Internet company that owns one of the world's leading soccer websites says its effective relocation to Armenia last year has proved to be a success, allowing it to re-structure and expand business.
Holland's Daily Sports Holdings, which distributes soccer-related news worldwide, decided to move its main editorial office from a town near Amsterdam into Yerevan in late 2000 and now plans a sweeping expansion in the next 18 months.
"All the operational activities related to the publishing of the websites are being done from Armenia since half a year ago," Jan Kloos, the company's Yerevan-based director, told RFE/RL in an interview this week.
"The move to Armenia gave us an opportunity -- of course primarily from the financial point of view -- to re-structure our company and to become much more our own news agency and less dependent on wire services," he said. "We are gradually growing into a full news agency."
Daily Sports currently runs three football sites in English and Russian that carry the latest information about major international competitions as well as European and other domestic leagues. It has recently opened bureaus in Istanbul and Beijing and will launch sites in Turkish and Chinese by the end of this month.
The Dutch news service's 35-strong team in Yerevan incorporates staff from three locally registered firms dealing with news gathering and editing, software development and Internet advertising. All three firms are owned by Daily Sports. Its websites have already been re-designed by the Armenian software unit.
The bulk of the web content is provided by a network of correspondents in 62 countries and Western news agencies. The reports are edited and posted in Yerevan. The Armenian staff also translates and reprints football-related reports appearing in major European newspapers.
"Approximately 70 percent of our content is being generated from this office," Kloos said. "Before we came to Armenia we depended on external suppliers for 100 percent of our content. Now we rely on external suppliers for only 30 percent. That makes us a lot less vulnerable."
According to Kloos, Daily Sports plans to have between 150 and 200 employees in its Yerevan head office by mid-2003, taking advantage of lower labor costs and taxes in Armenia. "We could not afford such a growth in Western Europe or the United States," he explained, adding that the Armenian divisions are due to become the "profit-generating center" of the Dutch group.
"From the economic point of view Armenia may be poor. But in terms of resources and personnel that we need, I do not consider it poor," Kloos added.
The Dutch businessman at the same time complained about the relatively low speed and high cost of Internet connection in Armenia, saying that Daily Sports has to host its two main sites (www.dailysoccer.com and www.dailyfootball.com) in the US in order to make them easily accessible for scores of readers from around the world.