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TikTok considers London for headquarters to escape Chinese link

A TikTok brand is displayed on a smartphone on this representation taken January 6, 2020. REUTERS

It was not immediately clear what other locations are under consideration. But it has hired aggressively in California this year, including poaching Kevin Mayer, a former Walt Disney Co executive, to be TikTok’s chief executive. He is based in the United States.

TikTok is facing heavy scrutiny in Washington over suspicions China could force the company to turn over user data. TikTok is owned by China-based ByteDance.

TikTok has been in discussions with the United Kingdom govt over the last few months to find its headquarters in London, a supply accustomed to the topic stated, as a part of a solution to distance itself from its Chinese language possession.

London is among one of several locations the company is considering, but no decisions have been made, the source said.

It was not immediately clear what other locations are under consideration. But it has hired aggressively in California this year, including poaching Kevin Mayer, a former Walt Disney Co executive, to be TikTok’s chief executive. He is based in the United States.

TikTok currently employs around 1,000 people in Europe, with the majority of those based in the UK and Ireland.

The Sunday Times reported that a decision by TikTok to build its headquarters in the UK has the potential to create 3,000 jobs.

The Chinese video-sharing platform is hugely popular and the app has been downloaded two billion times.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – who is visiting the UK this week – has previously said Washington is considering banning TikTok.

The source said the company is largely focused on its issues in the United States over the last few weeks, but has not ruled out London as a potential location for its new headquarters. TikTok is expected to “significantly” increase the size of its workforce in London and other key locations outside of China over the next several years, the source said.

The Trump administration claims that the Chinese telecoms firm provides a gateway for the state to spy on and potentially attack countries that use its equipment.

Huawei strongly denies the claims.

George Magnus, research associate at University of Oxford China Centre, said it was “hard to predict” how the Chinese government would retaliate for the Huawei decision.

“But we expect British companies will be in the crosshairs of all of this,” he said.

China is an important market for British business.

Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by India’s Tata Motors, sells its vehicles to China. Last month it borrowed £560m from five Chinese banks after sales dried up because of the coronavirus.

China is also a major investor in the UK, in particular the nuclear industry. China General Nuclear Power Corporation has invested around £3.6bn in the UK, including the Hinkley Point nuclear power project in Somerset.

Josh Hardie, deputy director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: “Post-Covid, promoting trade will be an important plank of our recovery, so we must think carefully about a future relationship that balances UK global competitiveness with wider interests.”

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