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WeWork plans Japan expansion, eyes Osaka, Yokohama and Fukuoka

[TOKYO] WeWork Co, a co-working space company backed by SoftBank Group Corp, is planning to expand its Japan operations to include Osaka, Yokohama and Fukuoka.

The New York-based startup may open a location in Osaka in the next 12 to 14 months, Chris Hill, WeWork's chief executive officer for Japan, said in an interview Thursday.

WeWork, which aims to open 10 to 12 offices in the Tokyo area this year, has signed a lease for its first location in Shibuya and plans to unveil the location in mid February, he said.

WeWork's first co-working space in the country, two floors of Mori Building Co's Ark Hills complex, opened Thursday. It houses 886 desks and is fully booked. SoftBank divisions and portfolio companies account for about half of the occupancy, Mr Hill said. The rest are taken by a few multinationals as well as small and mid-sized businesses in industries ranging from film-production, marketing, e-commerce, and software development.

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"We see this as the perfect mix for innovation," Mr Hill said. The company's future locations are likely to have a similar combination of tenants, which the startup refers to as members.

WeWork plans to open in Marunouchi Kitaguchi, its largest location in the market, on March 1, Mr Hill said. The penthouse space at Ginza Six and a nine-story office building in Shimbashi will open April 1.

WeWork Japan is a joint venture equally split between the New York-based shared-office provider and SoftBank.

The Japanese conglomerate's founder Masayoshi Son and his Vision Fund agreed to invest US$4.4 billion in WeWork in August to finance an aggressive global expansion plan that includes a US$500 million project in China.

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