TikTok mulls shifting headquarters out of China for business continuity

After India, the US is also planning to ban the popular app citing national security

INDIA-CHINA-INTERNET-SECURITY-TIKTOK TikTok, which India banned, has denied sharing information on Indian users with the Chinese government | AFP

With the US keen on towing the India government's line of banning Chinese firm ByteDance's short-video app TikTok, the company is reportedly mulling shifting its headquarters out of China and going for a rejig. Senior executives at ByteDance, TikTok's parent firm, are discussing options including creating a new management board for TikTok or establishing a headquarters for the app outside of China to distance the app’s operations from China, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

"As we consider the best path forward, ByteDance is evaluating changes to the corporate structure of its TikTok business," CNN Business quoted a company spokesperson in its report. "We remain fully committed to protecting our users' privacy and security as we build a platform that inspires creativity and brings joy for hundreds of millions of people around the world. We will move forward in the best interest of our users, employees, artists, creators, partners, and policymakers," the spokesperson added. 

TikTok currently does not have its own headquarters separate from Bytedance, which was founded in China and is incorporated in the Cayman Islands. TikTok is considering a number of locations for a global base. Its five largest offices are in Los Angeles, New York, London, Dublin and Singapore.

TikTok was among the 59 apps with Chinese links that the Indian government banned last week in the aftermath of escalating tensions at its border in Eastern Ladakh with China. A few days later, US politicians, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, raised concerns about TikTok as a potential national security risk, claiming that Chinese national security laws could give Beijing access to data on TikTok's American users. 

This was followed by US President Donald Trump on Tuesday saying his administration was "looking at" banning the app. 

TikTok, which sees India as its biggest overseas market, has more than 611 million downloads in India, accounting for about 30 per cent of its total global downloads. Meanwhile, ByteDance is anticipating a loss of over $6 billion after the India ban on three of its apps—Vigo Video, Helo and TikTok.

On its part, the Chinese company said it was in the process of complying with the government’s order on blocking of the app in India, and asserted that it has not shared information of Indian users with any foreign government, including that of China.