Hong Kong property

Son of Agile chairman eyes high-speed-railway launch to boost business for his new Hong Kong co-working space

Atlas already has portfolio of nearly 2 million square feet across mainland China and Vietnam, says founder Chen Sze Long

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2018, 9:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2018, 8:10pm

Growth within Hong Kong’s co-working space sector shows no signs of slowing, but a newcomer on the block plans to ride the launch of the city’s new high-speed-railway link to mainland China, to expand his business.

Already with a co-working space portfolio of nearly 2 million square feet across the mainland and Vietnam, Chen Sze Long – the son of the chairman of mainland property firm Agile Property Chen Zhuo Lin – launched his first Hong Kong workplace in The Gateway in Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) on Monday.

With the commissioning of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, the company expects TST to become the preferred location for firms seeking business opportunities in Hong Kong as well as the rest of China.

“Having a site near the high-speed-railway railway station can bring people from Hong Kong to the rest of China,” said Chen, the founder and chief executive officer of Atlas, which operates grade A office space in central business districts to multinationals and SMEs alike.

It now has 22 centres, 17 of which are in mainland China and four in Vietnam.

The new TST “Atlaspace” is a single-floor, flexible workplace covering 50,000 square feet, which spans the 16th floor of Sun Life Tower, within The Gateway complex.

Offering up to 700 workstations and 64 serviced offices, monthly rents start at HK$8,000 (just over US$1,000) per workstation, with the lowest capacity for five workstations making up a private office, starting at HK$40,000. The first group of tenants moved into Atlaspace last month, 70 per cent of which has been signed up.

“It’s really hard for start-up companies to find a huge space in Hong Kong,” Chen said.

“In monetary terms it’s very expensive, but there also restrictions in terms of space. In China there’s more space for us to execute, but Hong Kong is home.”

With what he says is an eight-digit initial investment, Chen says this first Hong Kong centre has already reached break-even point. Fashion giant Estee Lauder is its largest tenant.

Having a site near the high-speed-railway railway station can bring people from Hong Kong to the rest of China
Chen Si-lang, Atlas chief executive officer

“Hong Kong is a gateway city. It connects China and also the rest of the world, so it’s very important to us for international future expansion,” Chen said.

Thomas Lam, senior director and head of valuation and consultancy at Knight and Frank., said: “The number of co-working businesses is growing in Hong Kong and mainland China. Many are jumping on the bandwagon, but only the biggest three or four firms will be able to survive.

“The sector is still expanding, so businesses need to vie for a place and find the best mode of operation,” he added.

The amount of space available in Hong Kong expanded by 20 per cent to 1.2 million square feet in the five months to May, according to figures from CBRE, and 48 per cent of that is considered grade A office space.

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Atlas received strategic investment earlier this year in January from PAG Real Estate and Goldman Sach.

While Chen said it has no legal connection to Agile Property, he admits his father was “a very big influence for me personally”.

“He has a lot of experience in the real estate market, and has shared a lot about cost controls and quality of construction and the product, and internal management.”

Chen said Atlas started with four Hong Kong staff two years ago, and has now mushroomed into a company expecting to employ more than 1,000 by the end of the year.

“The global economy right now still has some uncertainty” Chen said. “For companies, no matter small or large scale, they have to be concerned about the future.”