Mitsui to hire more staff as it expands in S-E Asia

Japanese trading firm upbeat on healthcare and infocomm tech, also eyeing Indian subcontinent

Japanese trading company Mitsui & Co is looking to boost its headcount here to tap growth opportunities in the still-buoyant South-east Asian economies.

Sectors like healthcare and infocomm technology have a bright outlook, the firm said yesterday.

Mitsui converted its Singapore branch office into its regional headquarters about 10 years ago and now employs 300 staff here.

Apart from the Asean region, it is also eyeing prospects in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

"We believe that these areas will be most promising in terms of GDP growth. That's why we are mobilising more human capital resources to this region," said president and chief executive Tatsuo Yasunaga.

Mr Yasunaga told The Straits Times that the hiring of local talent here will be an important part of its expansion strategy.

The firm is setting its sights on this region amid uncertainties in other major markets.

"The US is now looking inward, the EU is going to face some critical milestones - Dutch, French, German elections. The domestic economy of the US is still robust... but other than that, we need to be cautious," Mr Yasunaga noted.

Mitsui has well-diversified businesses in sectors that include infrastructure, energy, chemicals, retail management, healthcare, and IT and communications.

It recently upped its investment here, partnering with urban solutions provider Ascendas-Singbridge Group and real estate developer Tokyo Tatemono Co to redevelop the former CPF Building at 79, Robinson Road.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the $1 billion project was held yesterday at the building, which was built in the 1970s.

Ascendas-Singbridge said the CPF Building will be demolished in stages over eight to nine months to make way for a 29-storey Grade A office tower of about 500,000 sq ft of net lettable area that will be completed in the middle of 2020.

The tower will offer environmentally friendly features, modern work spaces and column-free floor plates ranging from 21,000 to 23,000 sq ft.

The Robinson Road project will be Ascendas-Singbridge's first prime office development in the central business district here, and will complement its large portfolio of assets, including science and business parks.

Although the CBD office market has been lacklustre in recent years owing to a large supply of new space, Ascendas-Singbridge is optimistic about leasing prospects at the new project.

Mr Tan Yew Chin, the chief executive for Singapore and South-east Asia, noted: "It is a down market now, but we foresee that 2020 will be a sweet spot in that the demand for and supply of office space should be quite well-matched."

That is because the pipeline of office space supply will taper in the coming years, while other upcoming projects - in Central Boulevard and Golden Shoe Carpark - are expected to be ready after the Robinson Road block hits the market.

Mitsui said it will leverage its global client network to attract key tenants for the new building, which will be designed by global firm Gensler as well as DCA Architects here.

"I am very confident that Singapore will stay in the position of regional hub of this area," Mr Yasunaga added.

Source: Straits Times, 4 Mar 2017