Chinese firms with regional HQs in Hong Kong outnumber US ones for first time

Mainland Chinese firms accounted for 18 per cent of the city’s regional headquarters. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG – The number of American companies with regional headquarters in Hong Kong has dropped below that of mainland Chinese firms for the first time in at least 31 years.

There were 240 United States companies with regional hubs in the city as at June 1, down 14 from the previous year and the lowest number since 2002, according to data released by the Census and Statistics Department dating back to 1991. Mainland Chinese firms with regional headquarters in Hong Kong fell by one to 251, the data showed.

Mainland Chinese firms accounted for 18 per cent of the city’s regional headquarters, compared with 17 per cent by American companies, the data showed. Japanese, British and German companies were the next biggest by number. At the peak in 2012, there were 333 US firms with hubs in the city.

Strict Covid-19 curbs, a national security campaign and the struggling economy have dented Hong Kong’s appeal as an international finance centre, with businesses shifting resources to other centres such as Singapore. While Hong Kong has removed its most onerous pandemic measures, such as hotel quarantine, visitors are still subject to a series of restrictions, and the border with mainland China remains closed.

Chief Executive John Lee acknowledged in his policy address last month that the city had lost 140,000 workers over the past two years, and made attracting overseas talent one of his top priorities.

It will be an uphill climb. The number of visas granted to overseas workers in Hong Kong fell by about two-thirds during the Covid-19 pandemic. Travel has yet to pick up. Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s flag carrier, flew just 16 per cent of pre-pandemic passenger capacity in September, while Singapore Airlines was back to about 73 per cent of 2019 levels, similar to other major global operators like British Airways and Deutsche Lufthansa. BLOOMBERG

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