ByteDance Ltd. is in discussions to raise $2 billion before listing some of its businesses in Hong Kong, people familiar with the matter said, even as it seeks to avoid a ban on its TikTok service in the U.S.
The Chinese company is in talks with a group of investors includingSequoia over funding that would boost its valuation to $180 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing a private deal. ByteDance could then start preparing some of its biggest assets including Douyin and Toutiao for an initial public offering in Hong Kong, the people said. The company was last valued at$140 billion, according to CB Insights.
The terms of the funding round may still change as negotiations are ongoing, the people said. A representative for ByteDance declined to comment, while a representative for Sequoia didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
ByteDance, already the world’s most valuable startup, is in the throes of fighting a Trump administration ban on TikTok in the U.S. after the video service was labeled a national security threat. It’s now seeking U.S. and Chinese government approvals for a deal to sell a stake in the app toOracle Corp. andWalmart Inc., though negotiations have bogged down during the elections and legal battles over the implementation of the ban.
TikTok, Hong Kong and More U.S.-China Flashpoints: QuickTake
That deal, which included a condition that TikTok go public within 12 months on a U.S. exchange, won Donald Trump’s initial nod as a way to keep alive a social media phenom that’s become the go-to repository of music videos for 100 million-plus Americans. ByteDance was seeking a valuation of $60 billion for the app, Bloomberg Newsreported in September.
While the clash in the U.S. has drawn global attention, ByteDance’s services in China remain its most lucrative. Douyin, the domestic version of TikTok, surpassed 600 million daily active users in August, up from 400 million at the start of the year.
Toutiao, a news service driven by artificial intelligence recommendations, was the company’s first breakout hit and has surged in popularity in China.
ByteDance’s billionaire founder Zhang Yiming is still fighting to hold onto some control over TikTok, an app he built into a genuine challenger to Google andFacebook Inc. Under the proposed deal with the Trump administration, TikTok would be spun out of ByteDance, set up a global headquarters in the U.S. and sell a 20% stake to Oracle and Walmart.
ByteDancehas said it intends to retain the other 80%, althoughits partners have said the shares in the new TikTok Global would have to be distributed to ByteDance’s current shareholders. Those include American venture firms, including General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital.
At the same time, ByteDance has sued the U.S. government to prevent a ban. In October, a federal judge in Pennsylvaniablocked a broad set of government restrictions designed to curb the use of TikTok in the U.S.
TikTok emerged as a top target in Trump’s effort to crack down on China ahead of the U.S. elections. Tensions between Washington and Beijing escalated after his administration waged a campaign to contain the country’s technology ascendancy that also ensnaredTencent Holdings Ltd., now fighting a similar executive order banning its WeChat super-app.
— With assistance by Emma O’Brien, Haze Fan, Dong Cao, Zheping Huang, and David Morris
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