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Facebook opens first international engineering centre in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Facebook's first engineering centre outside the United States opened in London on Tuesday, boosting the British government's ambition to make the digital economy a central plank of its growth strategy.

The company's vice-president of engineering, Mike Schroepfer, said that London is "rapidly emerging as a global technology hub", providing access to the best engineers and a place where other talented engineers would be willing to relocate.

The London team will develop products to improve the Facebook experience on mobile devices and perform work on the social network's platform, Schroepfer said.

Developing mobile products is a priority for Facebook. The social network crossed the billion threshold this month, but it has struggled to make money from the growing numbers of people accessing its services on smartphones.

British finance minister George Osborne, who attended the opening in Covent Garden, central London, said that Facebook's move highlighted the attractiveness of the city for technology businesses.

"I hope it also reflects something of the work we have done as a government over the last couple of years to make this a go-to place for technology businesses," he added.

Osborne said the government had taken a range of measures including better computer science teaching, the expansion of superfast broadband and the improved availability of government data to apps developers.

Facebook's initial 12-strong team is headed by engineer Philip Su, who relocated from Seattle, site of the company's first engineering centre outside California. Su said that he has already recruited a handful of people locally.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by David Goodman)

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