ByteDance, 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 sources, 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 its TikTok operations in the United States under pressure by the Trump administration.
ByteDance, the world’s most richly valued start-up, is ploughing ahead with plans to take its social media services deeper into Asia after setbacks in India and Britain, 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 and Tencent Holdings 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.
A ByteDance representative offered no comment.
In China, ByteDance also runs news aggregation app Toutiao, and TikTok’s Chinese twin Douyin.
Collectively, its stable of products has more than 1.5 billion monthly active users.
ByteDance is said to have generated over US$3 billion (S$4.1 billion) of net profit on more than US$17 billion 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.
President Donald Trump said on Thursday (September 10) that he will not extend his Sept 15 deadline for the deal.
In India, TikTok is among more than a hundred Chinese-made consumer apps that are banned by the government on concerns about security.
SoftBank Group is exploring gathering a group of bidders for TikTok’s India assets.
The British government will likely ban TikTok from moving local user data out of the country, Bloomberg News has reported.
ByteDance is leading a consortium that has applied for a digital-bank licence from the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Other members of that group include a private investment firm owned by a member of the Lee family that founded OCBC Bank.
The regulator will award as many as five such permits to non-banks by December.
Ant Group and Tencent-backed Sea have also applied.❏