Nasdaq opened an office in Beijing on Monday, a move that will let it step up efforts to attract more Chinese firms to list on the exchange.

The Nasdaq Stock Market Inc said that having an office would also enable it to forge deeper ties with China's bourses and regulators.

Stock exchanges around the world are trying to lure Chinese firms to list with them as investors seek to capitalize on the rapid growth of the world's fourth-largest economy.

Nasdaq trades the shares of 52 Chinese companies with a combined market capitalization of $57 billion.

Nineteen of them have joined Nasdaq so far this year, compared with nine in 2006, and there will be at least one more listing by the end of 2007, Guang Xu, Nasdaq's managing director for Asia, told a news conference.

Xu described the 2008 pipeline of initial public offerings of Chinese firms as strong, especially for energy-related companies, but declined to put a figure on it.

Xu, who will head the Beijing office, said Nasdaq itself would consider listing its shares in Shanghai if China changes its regulations to permit listings of foreign companies.

Nasdaq, the No. 2 U.S. stock exchange, reached deals this year to take over the Philadelphia and Boston exchanges and to buy Nordic market operator OMX jointly with Borse Dubai.

Stepping up its Asia-Pacific presence would complete Nasdaq's global reach, Eric Landheer, the company's head of Asia-Pacific, told Reuters in Hong Kong.

The major piece that's still not there is Asia, Landheer said, adding: China is our most important market right now.

But Nasdaq and similar international markets such as the Growth Enterprise Board in Hong Kong face mounting competition as China redoubles its efforts to build its own Nasdaq-style board.

China agreed late last year to let the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq open offices in Beijing as part of deals struck during the first round of a high-level strategic economic dialogue with the United States.

NYSE Euronext, parent of the New York Stock Exchange, said on Monday it would open its Beijing office on December 11, the eve of the next round of the strategic dialogue. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will lead the U.S. delegation to the talks, which will take place near Beijing.

Washington is likely to press Beijing at the talks to open its financial sector wider. It would like China to raise the caps that now restrict foreign investors to minority stakes in local banks and other financial firms.

Beijing has already promised to lift a moratorium by the end of the year on new foreign brokerage joint ventures.

(Reporting by Jason Subler in Beijing and Rita Chang in Hong Kong; Editing by Alan Wheatley)