TikTok to make beachhead in S’pore

  • Singapore
  • Saturday, 12 Sep 2020

BYTEDANCE Ltd, the Chinese owner of video-sharing app TikTok, is planning to make Singapore its beachhead for the rest of Asia as part of its global expansion, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Beijing-based company is looking to spend several billion dollars and add hundreds of jobs over the next three years in the city-state, where it has applied for a licence to operate a digital bank, said the people, who asked not to be identified because of confidentiality.

The investment would come at a crucial time as the technology firm is forced to sell TikTok operations in the US under pressure by the Trump administration.

ByteDance, the world’s most richly valued startup, is ploughing ahead with plans to take its social media services deeper into Asia after setbacks in India and the UK as well as the US.

The Internet phenomenon controlled by billionaire Zhang Yiming has long eyed South-East Asia’s 650 million increasingly smartphone-savvy population, a region where Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Tencent Holdings Ltd are also making inroads.

The plans for Singapore include establishment of a data centre, the people said. Its operations there include TikTok and Lark, an enterprise software business.

ByteDance currently has more than 200 job openings in Singapore, for positions in everything from payments to e-commerce and data privacy, according to its job referral site.

The company already has 400 employees working on technology, sales and marketing in the city-state, one of the people said.

South-East Asia is rapidly evolving into a critical location for China’s largest tech corporations from Alibaba to Tencent in the face of growing hostility from the US and other major developed markets. Singapore is becoming a regional base for both Western and Chinese companies because of its developed financial and legal system, and as Beijing tightens its grip on Hong Kong.

“Singapore is highly attractive to tech firms looking for a hub to address the South-East Asian markets due to geographic proximity,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Vey-Sern Ling.

“The workforce is highly educated, tech savvy and multilingual.”

In China, ByteDance also runs news aggregation app Toutiao, and TikTok’s Chinese twin Douyin. Collectively its stable of products have more than 1.5 billion monthly active users.

ByteDance is said to have generated more than US$3bil (RM12bil) of net profit on more than US$17bil (RM70bil) of revenue in 2019.

Asia is a growth area for the company, especially when it is increasingly likely to miss the US government’s deadline for the sale of its TikTok US operations. — Bloomberg

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