updated 5/11/2005 8:19:01 PM ET 2005-05-12T00:19:01

Microsoft Corp. said Wednesday it formed a joint venture with Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd. to launch Web portal MSN China later this spring.

(MSNBC content is distributed by MSN. MSNBC itself is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Microsoft already offers its MSN Messenger instant messaging service and the MSN Hotmail e-mail service in Chinese, but said the new venture will deliver more comprehensive communications and information for the 94 million Chinese who were online in 2004.

"You look at the Internet audience in China as large and growing, and there's great opportunity there," said Adam Sohn, a global sales and marketing director at MSN. "It makes business sense. You're growing an audience there that is attractive to advertisers."

Microsoft was little concerned that China censors Internet content, Sohn said.

"Like when you go into business in any country, you do it in full compliance with the laws and regulations of that country. It's not something we think twice about," he said.

Founded in 1994, Shanghai Alliance is a professional investment company funded by the government which invests financial and information technology resources in new economic development in China.

Redmond-based Microsoft also said it plans to acquire certain assets of Chinese mobile software and services company TSSX, to provide the foundation for delivering MSN Mobile products and services to the Chinese market.

The TSSX deal marks Microsoft's first deal with a Chinese company involving mobile Internet services. As part of the agreement, Microsoft expects to form a China Mobile Development Center based in Shenzhen that will include TSSX employees and integrate MSN Mobile offerings with TSSX technologies.

According to ITFacts, China is the largest telecommunications market in the world, with an estimated 340 million mobile phone users.

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