A government official yesterday rejected a proposal to give tax incentives to lure international companies to set up regional headquarters in Hong Kong. Mike Rowse, director-general of investment promotion for Invest Hong Kong, said: 'In the past 18 months, none of the multinationals to have set up regional headquarters in Hong Kong has requested incentives.' His comments suggest the budget to be announced in two weeks is unlikely to include such measures, which could have widened the budget deficit estimated at least HK$60 billion this year. The Hong Kong Society of Accountants and the local branch of CPA Australia have urged the Government to halve the 16 per cent profit tax for multinationals. Both groups have put the scheme forward to Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung, citing Singapore and Thailand as examples of neighbours with similar incentives. Mr Rowse said that compared with Hong Kong, other countries might need to offer tax incentives to compensate for their weaknesses. He said Hong Kong should instead concentrate on ensuring local employees could speak good Chinese and English. The Government should also consider ways of allowing more mainland professionals to work in Hong Kong to create a larger pool of talent from which the multinationals could hire. Mr Rowse yesterday attended the opening of British sandwich chain Pret A Manger's first shop in Hong Kong and Asia. Pret A Manger chairman Andrew Rolfe said the firm had set up its Asian headquarters here not because of low taxes, but because Hong Kong was an international financial centre similar to New York and London. 'We do well in big cities and Hong Kong is one of the biggest in Asia,' he said. Mr Rowse also rejected a call from an exhibition industry body for the Government to expand the proposed new convention centre to more than a million square feet from about 540,000 sq ft. Mr Rowse said the smaller proposal was appropriate because few exhibitions would need more space than that. He also said the new casino entertainment centre in Macau would not be a threat to Hong Kong tourism. 'The tourism industry in Macau and Hong Kong are complementary with each other,' he said.