HEWLETT-Packard plans to continue to invest heavily in Asia after reporting particularly strong growth for its Asia/Australasia region in annual results announced last week, according to the firm's top computing industry executive. Included in immediate plans is the expansion of the company's joint venture computer manufacturing facilities in Shanghai, said Willem Roelandts, senior vice-president and general manager of Hewlett-Packard's US$25 billion Computer Systems Organisation. In Hong Kong yesterday for a 24-hour customer and management briefing, Mr Roelandts said the Asia/ Australasia region growth continued to outstrip the company's already-impressive gains worldwide. Globally, the company increased its revenues by 26 per cent to $31 billion in the year to the end of October. Growth in the firm's Computer Systems Organisation in Asia/Australasia - which includes all Far East markets except Japan - saw revenues increase by 58 per cent. Including Japan, overall growth for the Asia/Pacific was 44 per cent, Mr Roelandts said. Fuelling growth was strong demand for the firm's UNIX-based servers and network management software, he said, which would prompt heavy investment in - and expansion - of the division's Professional Services operation, the systems integration arm of Hewlett-Packard. Mr Roelandts said he planned to invest more this financial year in hiring and training network support staff for the Professional Services division, demand for which in Asia had surprised the company. The general industry shift to networked client/ server systems, coupled with a shortage of networking and open-standards skills in the region had fuelled demand for the firm's Professional Services arm, he said. 'There is greater demand in this part of the world for our Professional Services,' Mr Roelandts said, 'so it really makes sense to strengthen that side of the business. 'But rather than hiring people away from other companies - and very little expertise exists in this area anyway - our strategy will be to hire younger people and train them ourselves.' China continued to be a market with plenty of opportunity, Mr Roelandts said, though revenues from the mainland remained modest compared to the overall region. 'The only cloud - if there is one [in China] - is political and economic uncertainty,' he said. Mr Roelandts said he was optimistic about the company's prospects in China - where the company operates about 10 joint-venture relationships under an overall and well-known joint venture known as China-HP - with particularly strong demand for the company's servers and Professional Services products. Growth in Hewlett-Packard's Computer Systems Division alone was in the order of $6 billion, a revenue increase of a company the size of Microsoft in a single year, Mr Roelandts said.