ByteDance embarks on hiring spree in Singapore

ByteDance is hiring hundreds of engineers and senior management positions in Singapore for TikTok and other products. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE (FINANCIAL TIMES) - ByteDance, the owner of viral video app TikTok, has embarked on a hiring spree in Singapore, as the Chinese group deepens its operations outside the mainland to satisfy global regulators.

The Beijing-based company controlled by billionaire Zhang Yiming is hiring hundreds of engineers and senior management positions in Singapore for TikTok, as well as its enterprise software business Lark and other products.

GlobalData's job analytics database showed that ByteDance had posted 338 jobs in Singapore in the past six months. By comparison, only five jobs were posted in India, where TikTok was suddenly shut down in June last year on security grounds.

Singapore is viewed as a neutral city by Chinese technology companies as tensions continue to rise between Washington and Beijing.

Tencent and Alibaba both announced last year that the city would serve as a key international hub, with Alibaba spending half a billion dollars to buy a skyscraper in the heart of the financial district in May.

ByteDance has not confirmed which of its international offices is its global hub outside China, but its expansion in Singapore - it moved into a larger premises in the landmark One Raffles Quay office tower late last year - comes amid setbacks in India, the United States and Britain, where it has been blocked or accused of breaching privacy regulations.

"As we grow our presence in Singapore, we continue to look for the best global and local talents to support our business and augment local skills and capabilities," the company said.

The Financial Times reported last year that ByteDance could seek to separate TikTok and other units into a global business that is separate from its Chinese entity.

US President Joe Biden's administration is reviewing an executive order from former president Donald Trump that sought to force the sale of TikTok's US operations.

In China, where ByteDance still makes most of its money, it operates the mainland version of TikTok called Douyin and several other businesses including its education-technology unit Dali.

One lawyer who helped advise the company on its new Singapore office space said it "had all the hallmarks of a global hub". He added: "ByteDance seems to be spending more on this office than any other outside of China."

"I think they are hedging their bets given the rapidly evolving regulatory environment," said a consultant based in the city.

The hiring spree in Singapore will also support ByteDance's push into South-east Asia.

The company has created an education portal to test out a seller marketplace in Indonesia, the region's biggest e-commerce market, called TikTok Shop Seller University.

TikTok's migration to Singapore to cater to the Asian market is part of a wider trend of corporates moving out of China and Hong Kong, said Mr Jayanth Kolla, technology analyst at Bangalore-based consultancy Convergence Catalyst.

For the South-east Asia market - including Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines - Singapore is seen as "neutral" ground that could be viewed more favourably by regulators, said Mr Kolla.

"Singapore is increasingly becoming, for all practical purposes, the official South Asia and South-east Asia hub," he added. "The government has been accommodative and is jumping on the opportunity."

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