More than 340 companies in Asia have set up European distribution centres (EDCs), 56 per cent of them in the Netherlands, a study shows. It identified about 955 EDCs, 611 established by United States companies, 260 by Japanese, 63 by Taiwanese and 21 by Koreans. Mark Ketelaar, Holland International Distribution Council's general manager of logistics in Asia-Pacific, said the Netherlands was home to 57 per cent of centres established by US companies, 52 per cent of Japanese, 71 per cent of Taiwanese and 60 per cent of Korean centres. In the past, when companies set up businesses, they had distribution centres scattered all over the continent, he said. This was changing as more companies moved towards centralised distribution. The study also revealed that outsourcing European logistics to specialised logistics service providers had become popular with US and Asian companies. Two of every three US EDCs outsourced non-core activities to logistics service providers. The practice was prevalent among three out of five Japanese EDCs and almost all Taiwanese and Korean centres. 'Taiwan is aggressive in the European market and about 90 per cent of the activities are outsourced,' Mr Ketelaar said. Taiwanese mountain bicycle producer Giant, which had exported finished bicycles to Europe, now found it cheaper to import components into Europe for assembly at the EDCs to meet demands of customers, he said. By doing this, they found they were paying cheaper import duty on the bicycle components than they previously had on the finished product, Mr Ketelaar said. Reebok, the US shoe manufacturer, was an example of a company which outsourced its non-core activities to logistics service providers, he said. Computer company Hewlett-Packard also was setting up facilities in the northern Netherlands to outsource some of its activities to logistics service providers. Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency project manager Linnie Mackenzie said there were more than 30 Hong Kong companies and 40 mainland companies with European bases in the Netherlands, involving products ranging from toys and electronics to garments. She said businessmen found they could access countries such as France through partnerships with Dutch people - 70 to 80 per cent of whom spoke French. Ms Mackenzie said many companies were looking at opportunities in Europe and were using the Netherlands as a gateway. Mr Ketelaar said due to the Asian financial turmoil, some companies were looking to invest in the Netherlands because it was stable and offered low start-up costs because office rentals were cheaper than those faced by operators in neighbouring countries. Another trend fast emerging in the Netherlands was marketing over the Internet, with telephone numbers at call centres which manufacturing companies could use to take orders from customers in their native language. Orders were then transmitted to a distribution centre which the manufacturer used for quick delivery of the ordered goods. Call centres were manned round the clock by operators who spoke a variety of European languages.