TikTok owner Bytedance readies to hunker down in Singapore

The controversial-yet-insanely-popular short video app TikTok is poised to partner with Oracle over Microsoft to continue doing business in the US, as the Trump administration's US-sale deadline looms on September 15.

At the time of writing, the details of any actual agreement between TikTok and Oracle has yet to be officially declared, but one thing appears more certain – TikTok's Chinese Bytedance is set to shun any further US expansion in favor of as its de facto base outside of China.

The Chinese firm has been rated the most valuable startup in the world for the past two years, with a valuation topping US$140 billion. And that was before Tiktok began soaring to astronomical heights late last year, and is still the owner of Tiktok's Chinese app equivalent Douyin, popular news aggregator platform Jinri Toutiao, as well as a range of algorithm-driven apps and products.

Education and enterprise solutions are just two of the myriad pies that Bytedance has its fingers in, and if new reports are to be believed, the Beijing-based startup is looking to sink several billion dollars and add potentially hundreds of new jobs into Singapore's economy over the next three years.

Bytedance has bid for a license to operate a digital bank in the city-state, and it is believed that the company intends to set up a data center in Singapore, that will facilitate the operations of its applications including TikTok and Lark, an enterprise software business.

The Chinese unicorn currently has over 200 open positions listed on its job referral site for Singapore – comprising jobs from payments to e-commerce to data privacy – and ByteDance already has in excess of 400 staff working in Singapore in technology, sales, and marketing.

Amid growing tensions with the US and its allies, Southeast Asia is increasingly on the radar of China's tech giants as a friendlier alternative than certain developed markets. Singapore is an increasingly popular choice, as it has become a hub for both Western and Eastern business interests, in addition to possessing a cooperative regulatory and financial environment.

ByteDance is said to have generated more than US$3 billion of net profit on more than US$17 billion of revenue last year, and its collective stable of products has 1.5 billion active users every month. Southeast Asia is one of the fastest-growing subsections of the world, and its 650 million-strong population is increasingly mobile internet-savvy.

“Singapore is highly attractive to tech firms looking for a hub to address the Southeast Asian markets due to geographic proximity,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Ling Vey-Sern. “The workforce is highly educated, tech-savvy, and multilingual.”

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