TikTok is weighing plans to take on up to 500,000sq ft of office space in Dublin to facilitate a major expansion of its Irish-based operations.
The Chinese-headquartered social media company issued a request for proposal (RFP) to several commercial real estate advisers last week, with a view to securing office space in the capital capable of accommodating up to 5,000 workers.
While news of the move will be welcomed by the property sector and wider business community, coming as it does in the midst of the uncertainty being caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, a source familiar with the matter cautioned that should it proceed, any expansion by TikTok of its operations here would likely take place over several years.
Such a growth pattern would however be in keeping with the pace set by the mainly US-headquartered global tech companies that dominate Dublin’s so-called Silicon Docks currently.
In the case of Google for example, its arrival here in 2003 involved just five employees and the use of serviced offices on Harcourt Street.
While the search engine giant made the headlines last week when it abandoned plans to rent a further 202,000sq ft of space at the Sorting Office, its footprint in the capital extends today to a massive 1.1 million sq ft.
When taken together, the collective presence which is in the process of being established by Google, Amazon, LinkedIn, Facebook and Salesforce at their respective campuses across the city will cover a total area of 3.4 million sq ft (31.6 hectares) – or enough space for 34,000 workers.
Although it would take some time for TikTok to grow its operations in the capital to a scale equivalent to its American competitors, the Chinese-owned social media app gave a clear indication of the importance it attaches to Dublin last January when it announced the establishment of its EMEA trust and safety hub here, creating 100 jobs.
More recently, the company, which is owned by Chinese group, Bytedance, signalled its intention to add a data privacy division to its Dublin team, and to locate a $500 million (€420m) data centre in Ireland.
The Irish Times has contacted TikTok for comment in relation to its latest plans for its Irish operations, and is awaiting a response.
TikTok’s commencement of a search in Dublin for what could potentially become its European headquarter premises comes just two months after it pulled back from talks with the UK government on the opening of a new London headquarters capable of accommodating about 3,000 workers.
According to a report in the Guardian on July 19th, the talks were suspended with executives from Bytedance citing the "wider geopolitical context" following the UK government's move to ban Chinese telecoms firm Huawei from developing Britain's 5G mobile phone network.
The paper said UK officials remained hopeful that Bytedance would restart the talks and establish its base in London after it was made clear that the Huawei decision was largely due to US political pressure.
On August 3rd last, the Guardian reported that Bytedance was still weighing up plans to open a new headquarters in the UK capital, as discord between Beijing and Washington DC continued to deepen over Donald Trump’s stance towards TikTok.
The US president has expressed concerns in relation to Chinese companies’ links to the Chinese Communist Party and the potential risks he and others believe this poses for customers’ personal information.
Commenting at the time, a spokesperson for TikTok’s parent company, said: “Bytedance is committed to being a global company.
In light of the current situation, Bytedance has been evaluating the possibility of establishing TikTok’s headquarters outside the US to better serve our global users.”
Since its establishment more than three years ago, TikTok has garnered in the region of one billion users globally. The social media app has proved to be particularly popular with younger users.