The number of non-local companies with offices in Hong Kong has hit a record level despite uncertainty in the global economy, an annual government study has found. Some 7,904 companies had offices in the city as of June, a year-on-year increase of 4.2 per cent, the research by Invest Hong Kong and the Census and Statistics Department showed. The companies employed some 422,000 people between them, the research revealed. The fastest growth was among mainland companies, of which 1,091 had offices in the city as of June, an increase of 14 per cent. Many used the city as a stepping stone to expand overseas. American companies continued to have the biggest presence, with 1,368 running offices in Hong Kong, while Japan ranked second. "The significant increase in the number of mainland enterprises reaffirms Hong Kong's role as the major springboard for mainland companies to go global," said Dr Simon Galpin, director general of investment promotion for Invest HK. READ MORE: Hong Kong to reap benefit from growth of neighbours He said the city would have to "wait and see" whether the slowing economic growth on the mainland in the second half of this year would have a knock-on effect on companies' operations in Hong Kong or plans to invest here. Asked whether China's recent trade deals with Britain, signed during President Xi Jinping's state visit last week, would prompt mainland companies to cut out Hong Kong, Galpin said: "The fact that China is signing high-profile agreements, most recently with the UK, is not a threat to Hong Kong." He said many of the investments mainland corporations made in other countries would still be structured through Hong Kong entities as the city was seen as an ideal platform for merger and acquisition activities. "I don't see that changing. If anything, it would create new opportunities to service providers in Hong Kong," he said. Overall, some 44.1 per cent of the international companies with offices in Hong Kong were in the import-export (wholesale and retail) sector, with banking and finance the second biggest sector with 18.2 per cent. The survey found that companies opted for Hong Kong because of its simple, low-tax regime and the free flow of information it offered. However, factors holding the city back included a lack of places at international schools and the high cost of housing and office space. Some 42 per cent cited the high cost of housing as an unfavourable factor when it came to doing business in Hong Kong, while 39 per cent expressed the same concern about the cost of offices.