ByteDance Takes Step Toward Entering Online Stock Brokering in Hong Kong

August 10, 2020Updated: August 10, 2020

BEIJING/SHANGHAI—Beijing-based ByteDance, the owner of popular short video app TikTok, is taking steps to move into the online stock brokerage and wealth management business in Hong Kong, trademark registration documents show.

ByteDance applied last December to register a trademark called Songshu Zhengquan, which translates to Squirrel Securities, in Hong Kong, the city’s online intellectual property database shows.

The trademark application is being “examined,” according to the database, and areas of business it applied for include “computerized financial information services, stock trading, brokerage services, and stock exchange quotations.”

The business is still in its infancy, and ByteDance currently has just one full-time employee assigned to it, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The company has obtained a license, but any official launch of the online stockbroker business is not imminent, the source added, declining to be named, as the information isn’t public.

ByteDance didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company pulled its hit TikTok app out of Hong Kong in July after Beijing established a new national security law in the Chinese-ruled city.

President Donald Trump on Aug. 6 issued executive orders to ban U.S. transactions with ByteDance, as well as Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings, effectively banning their popular apps TikTok and WeChat. Trump has given ByteDance until Sept. 15 to sell TikTok to Microsoft or another American firm. Microsoft confirmed that it’s in talks to buy the app.

The U.S. administration and cyber experts have raised national security concerns about TikTok’s access to American users’ data, which they say could potentially be exploited by the Chinese regime for espionage purposes.

A Beijing-based fintech banker who spoke on condition of anonymity said that it made sense for the tech giant to explore opportunities in Hong Kong rather than the mainland, where the online wealth management market is dominated by Alibaba’s affiliate Ant Group.

Other Chinese-owned online stockbrokers in Hong Kong include Tiger Brokers and Tencent-backed Futu.

By Yingzhi Yang and Brenda Goh