HK brands eye expansion into Asia

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 May, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong is proving a springboard for local boutique serviced apartment brands to expand into mainland China and across Asia. Last year, market leader Shama opened its first mainland luxury serviced apartment complex in Shanghai's fashionable Xintiandi entertainment district.

It opened to rave reviews and the company built on the success with a second Shanghai property, Shama Xujiahui, a modern residential complex of 219 contemporary and chic apartments. This year the brand extends to Beijing and Dalian, bringing the total portfolio to 1,165 apartments.

'We're looking at all the key growth cities in Asia, from Singapore and Bangkok to second-tier mainland cities,' said Shama chief executive Elaine Young. With financial backing from investment banker Morgan Stanley and venture capitalist Gateway Capital Group, further expansion across the region envisages a giant chain of 60 properties by 2010.

'Our vision is to become Asia's premier luxury serviced-apartment brand,' Ms Young said.

VServiced Apartments, with a current Hong Kong portfolio consisting of three boutique apartment buildings, and two more opening by early next year, is also poised for rapid growth with expansion in the Greater China region.

'We will build on our reputation for style and substance, and continue the momentum in both Hong Kong and Greater China,' Deanne Siquiera, general manager of VServiced Apartments, said.

Like his competitors, home2home founder and managing director Girish Jhunjhnuwala is exploring expansion of his serviced apartment business beyond Hong Kong. The company launched a boutique hotel concept, Naumi, in Singapore last year and 'now we are hungry for more opportunities overseas'.

Also in his sights are Dubai, Vietnam, India and China.

'We are very interested in pursuing opportunities in these destinations,' Mr Jhunjhnuwala said. 'At the moment we are investing in due diligence to really get to grips with understanding these markets.'

Opportunities are abundant in mainland China, but to expand significantly beyond Hong Kong, like its main competitors, home2home may have to turn to financing partners.

'In China, where we have some good concepts in mind that could work, especially for mixed-use spaces, we would especially be looking for a partner,' Mr Jhunjhnuwala said.

'My doors are never closed to potential investors, but I enjoy owning my own business, and don't really want to build a giant brand. I don't think they are fashionable anymore. Our success is built on individual concepts with their own character, which is why we name them differently.'