FILE PHOTO: The logo of Bytedance, the China-based company which owns the short video app TikTok, or Douyin, is seen at its office in Beijing, China July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Suen/File Photo
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said the location of TikTok’s headquarters was a commercial decision after a newspaper report said the government had given the green light for its Chinese parent company to set up a head office in London for the popular short-video app.
The report in the Sun said the founders of China’s ByteDance would soon announce their intention to set up shop for TikTok in the British capital, where it would join other tech majors such as Google (GOOGL.O) and Facebook (FB.O) who have a strong presence there.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “It would be a commercial decision, and I’m not aware that one has been taken.” TikTok declined to comment.
Any move by ByteDance comes at a fraught time in relations between China and the West, exemplified by the battle over use in 5G telecom networks of kit made by China’s Huawei.
Britain had been trying to walk a tightrope over Huawei until it sided with Washington last month by banning the company from its 5G networks from 2027.
TikTok, whose stars such as Zachary King and Charli D’Amelio have gained worldwide popularity for their brief video performances, has also been in the firing line of U.S. President Donald Trump over supposed security concerns.
Trump however reversed course on a plan to ban the app after Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) emerged as a possible buyer of TikTok’s U.S. operations and he gave the two firms 45 days to come up with a deal.
London has also clashed with Beijing over the imposition of a new security law in Hong Kong but Johnson has said he is a Sinophile, and the British government would welcome another large tech investment in Britain particularly as the Coronavirus crisis sends the economy into a deep recession and possible trade disruptions loom over Brexit.
Reporting by William James; Additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Writing by Paul Sandle; Editing by Kate Holton and David Holmes