COL, an information technology services subsidiary of Hong Kong fixed-line telecommunications operator Wharf T&T, is to build a network of business-continuity centres in China geared for the mainland's growing multinational financial services community. The centres are planned for Beijing and Guangzhou, following the inauguration in Shanghai last month of an expanded COL facility. 'The new centre signifies our commitment to the long-term development of COL in China,' said Stephen Ng Tin-hoi, deputy chairman and managing director of parent conglomerate The Wharf (Holdings). 'We are keen to further open up the China market with more branch offices in other cities.' COL recently invested about US$2 million to expand its Shanghai office into a 10,000-square-foot business-continuity centre, occupying three storeys of the Wharf Group's Shanghai Times Square property in Puxi. Founded in 1972, COL said that for many years it controlled about 80 per cent of the market in Hong Kong for business-continuity services aimed at local banks and multinational financial services institutions. 'COL's investment in business-continuity service has already exceeded HK$250 million in Hong Kong and China,' said Mr Ng, who is also the unit's chairman. Business-continuity services provide disaster recovery and business continuity solutions in the event of service disruptions that may happen as a result of computer network virus attacks, natural disasters or terrorism. 'Customers expect to be up and running within minutes in the event of sudden service disruption,' said Norris Hickerson, vice-president for data centre and engineering services at COL. Mr Norris said most of the disaster recovery services and business continuity planning opportunities in Hong Kong and the mainland have come from the financial services sector. COL's strategy was to make an early investment and become first in a market to offer business-continuity facilities required by multinational financial services institutions, he said. In Hong Kong, there are more than 100 such companies in operation. COL estimated that there are about 50 such companies in Shanghai, 40 in Beijing and 25 in Guangzhou.