Facebook Says It May Win Advertising From China Even After Ban

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook Inc
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive officer of Facebook Inc. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Facebook Inc., inaccessible in China since 2009, said it may start winning advertising sales from companies in the world’s fastest-growing major economy after opening an office in neighboring Hong Kong.

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 today. Facebook at present has no customers from China in its direct sales division, she said.

Facebook, owner of the world’s most popular social-networking service, opened the office in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, to boost business in the city and Taiwan, it said in a statement today. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg visited China in December and held meetings with executives at local Internet companies including Baidu Inc. and Sina Corp.

Leung, a former executive at Google Inc., said Facebook’s latest office in the Asian region will focus on Taiwan and Hong Kong, which have separate Internet regulations from China. She couldn’t confirm if Chinese companies are already buying advertising by placing orders on Facebook’s website, rather than through the direct sales division.

China’s system of Internet monitoring blocks overseas websites such as Facebook, Twitter Inc. and Google’s Youtube, and requires domestic websites to self-censor content that’s pornographic or related to gambling, in addition to political topics such as Tibet independence and the Tiananmen Square student protests in 1989.

Indonesia, India, Brazil

Zuckerberg’s December visit to China was for personal reasons, Blake Chandlee, a vice-president at Facebook, said today in Hong Kong, 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 U.S. and Japan.

Indonesia is expected to remain Facebook’s biggest market outside of the U.S. in terms of users, Chandlee said. Facebook, which has more than 500 million users, is increasing its sales and users in emerging markets including Brazil, India and Russia, he said.

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