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Monday, May 12, 2008

The business centre solution

William Willems (left) and area director for Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia Ard Verloop

The Regus Group, a leading international provider of workplace solutions, offers companies of all sizes the ideal hedge in times of uncertainty.

William Willems, The Regus Group country general manager for South East Asia, said that working from business centres reduced the burden of property ownership and management and allowed individuals and businesses to work however and whenever they wanted to work.

With property constituting more than 40% of the total assets of many of the world’s leading corporations, these businesses were increasingly looking at office space requirements as a strategic component of their business plan, he said.

“Thus Regus enables companies to maintain that needed flexibility by helping them minimise their second largest cost of doing business: the expenses associated with leasing, equipping and staffing their office space,” he told StarBiz in an interview.

Each Regus business centre location includes offices, meeting rooms and common areas and is located at premier addresses in city centres. Clients will be able to utilise Regus's business services such as network access and information technology, video conferencing and administrative support.

Willems said that workplace outsourcing also enabled companies to rapidly seize new market opportunities because the office infrastructure was already in place,

“It is particularly beneficial when businesses are setting up offices in emerging markets,” he said. “When you have a good idea, you do not put it in the market in six months' time. You need to go quickly to the market and make sure you are there before the competition,” he said.

Regus also supports the growing trend of mobile and home working. According to The Bureau of Labour and Statistics, by 2014 there will be a 9% decline in prime-age workers nationwide. This demographic shift will make companies focus on recruiting more aggressively across wider geographic regions and offer more flexible workplace arrangements for an increasingly decentralised workforce.

The company now operates from 950 centres across 70 countries, with 100 centres in Asia-Pacific and three business centres in Kuala Lumpur, located in Central Plaza, the Petronas Twin Towers and 1 Sentral (newly opened centre).

At present, it has 300 clients in Malaysia, which include blue chips such as Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Nokia.

As Malaysia is one of Asia's prime emerging property markets, Willems said, expansion in Malaysia would be part of Regus' growth strategy in Asia-Pacific.

As foreign investment continued to trickle in especially from China, the US and Japan, it had brought with it a high demand for quality commercial and residential real estate lettings to service a growing expatriate community in the country, Willems said.

With occupancy rates reaching almost 80% in all its three centres, the company plans to open more centres in Malaysia over the next 12 months. It has targeted locations in Kuala Lumpur, Damansara, Penang, Johor, and East Malaysia.

Thus far, the company has invested some RM8mil on its three centres in Malaysia and Willems said key factors that are facilitating the expansion into Malaysia was the positive attitude of the Government and a conducive business environment.

He said the group targeted to increase the number of business centres in Asia-Pacific from 100 to 150 by end of this year.

Despite a challenging economy and falling business confidence, he said it was not affecting the company's performance.

“The number of enquiries on Regus continues to rise, and despite the current credit tightening environment, Regus sales are increasing,” he said.

The Regus Group is traded on the London Stock Exchange.

By The Star - StarBiz - (by Eileen Hee)

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