TikTok potentially eyes Dublin for new headquarters after UK talks stall

20 Jul 2020

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In what could be seen as a tit-for-tat move after the Huawei ruling, Chinese firm TikTok has paused talks on creating a UK headquarters with 3,000 jobs.

TikTok, the social media company currently cited as one of big tech’s biggest rivals, has halted talks on the opening of a London headquarters for its non-China business due to the “wider geopolitical context”. The TikTok app is owned by Chinese company ByteDance and is exclusively aimed at the non-Chinese market.

According to The Guardian, TikTok and the UK government have been in discussions about the opening of a new headquarters that would expand the company’s current operations in London and create around 3,000 jobs.

However, the UK’s recent decision to ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from its 5G networks has potentially jeopardised talks as fears grow that the UK and China could become engaged in a trade war.

Now it’s understood the social network is looking at alternatives, with Dublin reportedly being a leading candidate.

At the start of this year, TikTok announced the opening of a new ‘trust and safety hub’ in Dublin, with plans to create around 100 jobs by the end of 2020. The Irish office recently gained significant importance for the social platform after it was decided Dublin would be responsible for the oversight of European users’ data from 29 July.

‘UK is one of our most important markets’

However, the Guardian reports that UK officials are hopeful that ByteDance can restart talks and establish its base in London after it was made clear that the Huawei decision was largely due to US political pressure.

A spokesperson for ByteDance said: “The UK is one of our most important markets globally, with a talented and diverse team in London, including senior leadership. UK employees have quadrupled over the last year and we expect continued strong growth.

“We remain fully committed to investing in London and inspiring creativity and bringing joy to our users around the world through our products and platforms.”

It has been reported recently that ByteDance has considered spinning off TikTok as its own separate entity, amid fears that its association with China could see the app restricted in some of the world’s largest markets. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo recently said the Trump administration was “looking at” banning the app in a similar move to India.

India recently included TikTok on a list of 59 apps developed in China that are now banned for threatening the “national security and defence of India”. India is one of TikTok’s biggest markets with approximately 120m active monthly users.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic