ARNHEM, The Netherlands - Akzo Nobel announced the establishment of a regional headquarters office in Shanghai in a move the company said marks a major milestone in its ongoing program of expansion in China.

CEO Hans Wijers said Akzo Nobel has doubled its sales in China in the last five years, to $484 million in 2003, "and our ambition is to repeat that." Akzo Nobel said that over a 10-year period, its operations in China expanded from the importing of products through five sales-representative offices to an extensive network of manufacturing and business facilities and offices.

The company said its Coatings group accounts for the majority of its sales in China, with 63% of the total, followed by Chemicals with 28% and Pharma with 9%. Akzo Nobel said it currently has operations at 21 locations in China, with a work force of 3,000 people.

"We are actively obtaining leadership positions in selective markets in health-care products, coatings and chemicals," Wijers said. "The new Shanghai office will play a vital role in supporting our businesses in this important part of the world."