More firms setting up regional headquarters in Shanghai
China Daily


Bright colors glow and reflect on the river in this night view of the Bund in Shanghai. (Photo: VCG)

Multinational companies have accelerated the pace with which they have set up their regional headquarters and research centers in response to the Shanghai government's resolution to further develop its economy.

The municipal government granted certificates on Wednesday to 35 multinational companies based in Shanghai to acknowledge the establishment of their regional headquarters and research centers in the city. It is the 31st time that the government has granted such recognition since 2002.

Among the 35 companies, 24 specialize in manufacturing, while the remaining 11 are modern service providers.

A total of 14 Fortune 500 companies and big names in the industry can be found among the newly released recognition list. They include Japanese trading company Itochu, the world's largest foreign exchange company Travelex, and beverage giant Coca-Cola.

In addition, four of the newly recognized companies have set up their Asia-Pacific headquarters in Shanghai. Of the 11 research and development centers receiving recognition on Wednesday, three are the global R&D centers of multinational companies.

So far, a total of 710 multinational companies have set up their regional headquarters in Shanghai while another 453 firms have built their R&D centers in the city, the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce said.

Over the first 10 months of the year, a total of 12 companies have set up their R&D centers in Shanghai while another 40 have set up their regional headquarters in the city, of which 26 are headquarters for the Asia-Pacific region, according to the commission.

Travelex set up its regional Asia-Pacific headquarters in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone in December last year.

The company's Asia-Pacific commercial director, Cameron Hume, said China's relaxed foreign exchange controls, increasing number of outbound Chinese travelers, and Shanghai's position as a global financial center are the major reasons to place the firm's regional headquarters in the city.

While Travelex provides foreign currency exchange services for outbound Chinese tourists and remittance services for overseas individuals living in China, the company sees its Chinese business accounting for 3 percent of its annual global turnover.

Hume expects the figure will rise to about 8 percent in the next few years.

Travelex's Shanghai headquarters for the Asia-Pacific is also in charge of the business in mature markets such as Japan, Singapore and Australia. Hume explained it is crucial to have a presence in China given its huge market size which is conducive to the development of more products.

Shanghai rolled out the first batch of favorable policies to attract the regional headquarters of multinational companies 17 years ago. In July this year, 30 new policy measures were introduced to further attract those multinational companies.

The Shanghai facility of German heating and sun roof solutions provider Webasto now works as the company's regional management headquarters and R&D center.

Zhang Lihua, deputy president of Webasto Roof Systems China Ltd, said the company's sales revenue in China has increased more than 500 times between 2001 and 2018.

While the production function of the Shanghai venue will be gradually moved to other neighboring cities, Webasto will continue its investment in China, especially in the R&D sector, to secure an annual turnover growth rate of about 5 to 10 percent, said Zhang.

At this time, the company is working together with its clients for the development of luminous glass, the first time that China will lead in the development of a product, he added.

"Shanghai working as a hub for both management and technology talents is one of the major reasons for settling down the regional headquarters here," he said.

Italian marine and certification service provider RINA S.p.A. set up its China subsidiary in Shanghai in 2009 and upgraded it into the firm's regional headquarters earlier this year. The Shanghai headquarters is RINA's largest overseas branch.

Andrea Turco, RINA's senior director for the Asia-Pacific region, said the global economic slowdown and the contraction in the growth of the shipping industry worldwide has not affected its business in China, as almost all the shipyards he has visited in the country are "fully occupied".

Despite the economic uncertainties, RINA will continue to invest in China given its huge market size and robust growth rate, he said.

US automotive components and parts supplier BorgWarner Inc has also decided to place its regional headquarters in Shanghai. Tan Yuesheng, the company's president in China, explained that Shanghai has a significant advantage in terms of industrial capacity, investment and trade. No more than 3 percent of the products made in its China facilities are for export.

"It is for the best that we develop and produce in China. With appropriate investment, effective management and quality products, companies are sure of registering sustained growth in the country," said Tan.