March 28, 2018 / 10:13 PM / 23 days ago

Exclusive - Chinese coworking firm Ucommune seeks $200 million in financing: source

NEW YORK (Reuters) - China’s largest coworking firm, Ucommune, is seeking to raise $200 million in financing to expand its global operations, a source told Reuters on Wednesday, in another sign of the growing market for shared office space.

RockTree Capital, the sole foreign investor in Ucommune, is seeking to raise $200 million from both Chinese and international investors to expand the coworking firm’s operations globally, a source with knowledge of the financing plans told Reuters.

RockTree, according to the source, is seeking one or two international partners to join the venture.

Chinese internet retailer Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N), through one of its units, is also an investor in Ucommune.

NEW YORK EXPANSION

Ucommune officially opened its first location in New York City on Wednesday as it seeks a bigger U.S. presence to tap in to cross-border trade and help businesses with the need for an American or Chinese partner.

Flexible workspace has been growing at an average annual rate of 23 percent since 2010, according to Jones Lang Lasalle Inc JJL.N, and including coworking is now the primary growth driver in the U.S. office market.

For an interactive graphic showing flexible office space growth, click: ( tmsnrt.rs/2FNerRO )

Ucommune (Beijing) Venture Investment Co Ltd opened the New York financial district site with Serendipity Labs, a U.S. firm that is rolling out a nationwide network of more than 125 coworking sites over the next three years.

The company already has sites in San Francisco and Los Angeles and is looking to partner again with Serendipity Labs in a U.S. city that has still to be announced, said Daqing Mao, chairman and chief executive of the Beijing-based company, in an interview with Reuters.

New York is viewed as a fintech capital where blockchain and finance converge, and Chinese companies want to be linked into that network, according to Ucommune. The company envisions American companies using its host of sites in 30 Chinese cities as well.

The New York opening follows two acquisitions in China this year that along with a Series C round of funding lifted the company’s valuation to about $ 1.7 billion, Ucommune said.

The company’s focus outside of China is Southeast Asia, where it has sites in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taipei, and plans to open sites in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, Mao said.

While the coworking leader in China, Ucommune has only about 7 percent of that market, he said.

“For us it’s all about building an ecosystem,” Mao said.

    Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Daniel Bases and Matthew Lewis

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