TikTok is facing more doubts over positioning its international headquarters in the United Kingdom, as the United States looks to ban the wildly popular app.
Beijing-based ByteDance, the Chinese group that owns the video-sharing platform, has been discussing with UK officials about making London its main base. But according to the Guardian, TikTok has withdrawn from talks to base its headquarters in the UK. The move threatens the creation of 3,000 jobs, as worries escalate of a tit-for-tat trade showdown between Beijing and London.
A ByteDance spokesperson, however, said they remain fully committed to investing in the UK.
ByteDance had spent months in trying to work out an agreement with the British Department for International Trade for an expansion of operations on top of the nearly 800 workers employed by the Chinese app group.
A spokesperson for the Department for International Trade said ByteDance's decision to base their global headquarters in the UK is a commercial decision for the company.
The development comes as frictions grow between China and the UK over the government's recent move to order the removal of Huawei's 5G equipment from its mobile infrastructure by 2027.
China is also furious that Britain is offering sanctuary to potentially millions of Hong Kong citizens that might be impacted by Beijing's new security legislation.
The popularity of TikTok boomed across the globe early this year, but a rising number of security fears have been raised. Chinese firms are required by law to submit sensitive information if it is requested by the central government. India, for its part, has already blocked TikTok over national security concerns and the US has indicated it will follow suit.
It wasn't immediately clear what other locations TikTok is planning to build a base in. But the group has hired aggressively in California lately, including wooing Kevin Mayer, a former Walt Disney executive, to be the top executive of TikTok. Mayer is based in the United States.
The company had been optimistic of gaining concessions for a headquarters office in London but will now look at rival cities with Dublin, where several personnel are already based.
TikTok is seen to significantly increase the volume of its headcount in the UK and other major locations outside of China in the next few years, sources said.
Meanwhile, it remains unclear how the Trump administration will go about imposing a proposed ban on the use of TikTok, as ordering Americans to shun the app would most likely violate their constitutional rights.