Facebook Inc’s opening of an office in Hong Kong is placing the social-networking service provider within reach of online advertisers in the world’s biggest Internet market.
Chinese companies seeking to sell their products overseas may “potentially” buy advertising from Facebook, Jayne Leung, who heads the Palo Alto, California-based company’s sales operations in Hong Kong, said in an interview on Tuesday.
Facebook currently has no customers from China in its direct sales division, she said.
Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg in December visited China, where Facebook has been inaccessible since 2009, and held meetings with executives at local Internet companies, including Baidu Inc (百度) and Sina Corp (新浪).
Facebook on Tuesday announced the opening of a sales office in Hong Kong to boost business in the territory and Taiwan.
“The track record for foreign Internet companies succeeding in China is very, very poor,” said Eric Wen, who rates competitors Tencent Holdings Ltd (騰訊控股) and Baidu “buy” at Mirae Asset Securities Co in Hong Kong.
Facebook could gain access to local users by investing in Chinese Internet firms, or focus on non-core areas such as video, Wen said.
Leung, a former executive at Google Inc, said Facebook’s latest office in the Asian region would focus on Hong Kong, which has separate Internet regulations from China, and Taiwan.
She said she couldn’t confirm if Chinese companies are already buying advertising by placing orders on Facebook’s Web site, rather than through the direct sales division.
China’s system of Internet monitoring blocks overseas Web sites such as Facebook, Twitter Inc and Google’s YouTube and requires domestic Web sites to self-censor content that’s pornographic or related to gambling, in addition to political topics such as Tibetan independence and the Tiananmen Square student protests in 1989.
Zuckerberg’s December visit to China was for personal reasons, Blake Chandlee, a vice president at Facebook, said in Hong Kong on Tuesday, where he addressed a meeting that’s part of Social Media Week, a local industry event.
Chandlee declined to comment on Facebook’s plans for China.
The world’s most populous nation had 457 million Internet users at the end of last year, according to the China Internet Network Information Center, a government-affiliated group that compiles industry statistics. That’s more than the combined populations of the US and Japan.
Facebook, which has more than 500 million users, is increasing its sales and users in emerging markets including Brazil, India and Russia, he said.