The Hong Kong government has attracted 272 companies to develop business in Hong Kong this year, the city’s commerce secretary has said.

Speaking on a Commercial Radio show on Saturday, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Algernon Yau said foreign companies that left Hong Kong during the pandemic “have all returned” to the city, adding that it showed foreign capital had regained confidence in the city.

Hong Kong city view landscape
The Hong Kong skyline in September 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Yau did not provide details about the 272 companies, such as where they were headquartered or the size and scale of their operations. He said the authorities aimed to attract 1,100 companies to Hong Kong in the coming three years.

HKFP has reached out to the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau for a response.

Hong Kong saw an outflow of expats and foreign companies amid strict Covid-19 restrictions from 2020 to 2022 and following the establishment of the national security law.

Algernon Yau
Algernon Yau. File photo: Greater Bay Airlines.

According to Census and Statistics Department, the number of regional headquarters set up in Hong Kong by US, Japanese, British and European companies all decreased in 2022 compared to 2019.

The number of French companies with regional headquarters in Hong Kong fell from 96 in 2019 to 80 in 2022, recording the largest decline of 16.7 per cent. Reginal headquarters set up by US companies decreased from 278 in 2019 to 240 in 2022.

In the same time period, mainland Chinese companies have opened more regional headquarters in Hong Kong, increasing from 216 in 2019 to 251 in 2022.

Business city Hong Kong white collar
Hong Kong Central district. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

In recent years, Hong Kong has seen a decrease in the number of foreign affiliated companies, which the government defines as those from mainland China and overseas. In 2022, there were 8,978 companies holding regional headquarters, regional offices and local offices in the city, down from 9,040 in 2019.

The authorities have launched a series of initiatives to attract foreign companies, including establishing an Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises (OASES) in December last year. The office aimed to attract “representative and high-potential strategic enterprises” to Hong Kong.

Commerce bureau chief Yau said on Saturday that OASES has reached out to around 200 “strategic enterprises” this year, among which 25 companies would soon set up local offices in Hong Kong.

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Irene Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press and has an interest in covering political and social change. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Fudan University and a master’s degree in social work from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.