GM to move international HQ from Shanghai to Singapore

PHOTO: GM to move international HQ from Shanghai to Singapore

BEIJING - American auto giant General Motors (GM) is shifting gears and relocating its international headquarters from Shanghai to Singapore next year, a move seen as another building block in the city-state's growing stature as a global business centre.

It said on Wednesday that it would locate about 120 staff in Singapore to oversee markets including South-east Asia and India.

The operation will also direct businesses in South Korea, the Middle East, Africa, Australia and New Zealand as well as the European operations of Chevrolet - its best-selling brand - and Cadillac, its luxury division.

The new Singapore offices, to be headed by vice-president at GM's consolidated international operations Stefan Jacoby, are expected to open in the second quarter of next year. About 250 employees will be kept in Shanghai.

Although China has surpassed the US as the world's biggest market for new vehicle sales, the move to Singapore marks a homecoming of sorts, after an absence of nearly 10 years.

The GM Asia-Pacific office was established in Singapore in 1993. It had expanded into a dozen markets before the firm left for Shanghai in 2004, acknowledging the growing importance of China to the carmaker.

Experts say GM's move is another feather in Singapore's cap in its drive to attract global firms to its shores with tax breaks and other carrots, taking advantage of their desire to tap into the region's fast-growing markets.

McDonald's, for instance, recently upgraded its regional hub in Singapore as the operational base for Asia, the Middle East and Africa while consumer goods giant Proctor & Gamble runs its global Pampers nappies business from the city-state. Both Daimler and Volvo also have their regional headquarters in Singapore.

In August, GM reorganised its overseas businesses to separate China, where it has more than 55,000 employees, from the rest of its business, media reports said. It named Mr Tim Lee chairman of operations in the world's largest car market, and put Mr Jacoby in charge of more than 100 countries and territories.

GM said that decisions about its international markets would be made "in the interest of growing our business while allowing us to focus even more intently on China", reports added.

Mr Jacoby said of the move: "It will help us to create a renewed identity... and lead GM's umbrella strategy for the region. We are looking forward to being an important part of the Singapore business community."

In an e-mail reply to queries, Mr Lim Kok Kiang, assistant managing director, cluster group engineering, of the Economic Development Board, said he was "heartened" by the move.

"With our pro-business environment, excellent connectivity and infrastructure as well as talented workforce, Singapore is an ideal base for companies with a strong international presence, like GM, to manage and grow their business in Asia and the rest of the world."

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