TikTok, the viral short-video app built by China’s Bytedance that has swept across the world, is reportedly looking to establish a global headquarters outside of China as the app is eager to shake off its “Made in China” label in the face of increasingly heightened scrutiny from the US.
Cities shortlisted by the company, according to the Wall Street Journal, include Singapore, London, and Dublin. No US cities were being considered, the report says. TikTok currently runs its US operations in the Los Angeles.
Bytedance also made Singapore the global headquarters for its Slack-like service Lark. Singapore historically is a popular choice for global companies that are considering setting up their Asia-Pacific base, thanks to the city-state’s business-friendly environment, strong government support, and a large pool of regional talent. For instance, Alphabet’s Google and Facebook both base their Asia-Pacific operations in Singapore.
Other possible locations are London and Dublin. Setting up headquarters in these places will probably boost TikTok’s growth in promising markets like Southeast Asia and Europe. Dublin also could be a winner, thanks to its lax taxation policies.
TikTok currently doesn’t have a headquarters, although its top executives mostly sit in its Shanghai and Los Angeles offices.
TikTok has garnered attention from the US government lately over issues of user data storage. Last month, the US government started a national probe on TikTok’s Beijing parent Bytedance’s US$1 billion acquisition of lip-syncing video app Musical.ly in 2017. Bytedance merged then-popular Musical.ly with TikTok soon after the deal.
Last week, the US Navy banned TikTok from government-issued mobile devices for reasons of “cybersecurity threat,” following footsteps of the Army, which told cadets not to use the social media app while representing the military due to concerns over the app’s handling of data.
As of November, TikTok, launched in 2017, had surpassed 1.5 billion downloads worldwide on the App Store and Google Play, according to third-party research firm Sensor Tower. The stats from November also revealed that it ranked third on the list of the most downloaded non-gaming app of the year with 614 million installs, only lagging behind WhatsApp and Messenger and sitting above Facebook and Instagram.