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LinkedIn edges closer to China with new Hong Kong gaff

Social network for suits has eyes on the holy grail

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Business social networking site LinkedIn took another step towards expansion in China this week with the opening of an office in neighbouring Hong Kong, its ninth in an Asia Pacific region which is home to more than 25 million of its members.

This follows office openings in Singapore and Japan last year and the launch of the site in three new languages – Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Malaysia and Korean – LinkedIn's APAC MD Arvind Rajan said in a blog post.

“Hong Kong’s skilled talent base and its reputation as a leading international center of finance and business make it an important market for us, and we’re thrilled to be expanding our footprint in the region at a time when professionals in Hong Kong are placing a growing emphasis on social media,” he added in a canned statement.

“We’re looking forward to learning more from our members and customers here, to better understand their needs and support them in enhancing their professional lives.”

There was no mention in the blog post of the firm’s reported plans to crack the massive Chinese market – surely the holy grail for any social network – although it is edging ever closer.

In February it was reported that founder Reid Hoffman had been in the People’s Republic to hold discussions with domestic web giants Baidu, 360.cn, Sina and Renren over the possibility of setting up a business operation in the country.

China’s rapidly expanding middle class and its online population of over 500 million is eyed greedily by social firms in the West, but unlike Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn isn’t banned in the People’s Republic and as it is confined to largely business-focused discussions, it should stay onside with the censors.

As always with China, however, it will face tough competition from local companies, such as biz networking platform Tianji, which have evolved to fill the gap in the domestic market and which understand the requirements of Chinese business users very well.

Not to be outdone on the Asian expansion front, Microsoft has officially opened its first Southeast Asia Microsoft Technology Centre (MTC) in Singapore.

Like its MTC equivalents in Tokyo, Beijing and countless other locations, the centre is designed to allow potential customers and developers an opportunity to try out Microsoft technology and talk to experts from the company before deciding on a purchase.

Redmond has reportedly pledged to spend $23m (£11.4m) on the facility over the next five years. ®

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