ByteDance, already the world’s most valuable startup, is in the throes of fighting a Trump administration ban on TikTok
in the US after the video service was labeled a national security threat. It’s now seeking US and Chinese government approvals for a deal to sell a stake in the app to Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc., though negotiations have bogged down during the elections and legal battles over the implementation of the ban.
That deal, which included a condition that TikTok
go public within 12 months on a US 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 News reported in September.
While the clash in the US 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 and Facebook Inc. Under the proposed deal with the Trump administration, TikTok would be spun out of ByteDance, set up a global headquarters in the US and sell a 20% stake to Oracle and Walmart.
ByteDance has said it intends to retain the other 80%, although its 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 US government to prevent a ban. In October, a federal judge in Pennsylvania blocked a broad set of government restrictions designed to curb the use of TikTok in the US
TikTok emerged as a top target in Trump’s effort to crack down on China ahead of the US elections. Tensions between Washington and Beijing escalated after his administration waged a campaign to contain the country’s technology ascendancy that also ensnared Tencent Holdings Ltd., now fighting a similar executive order banning its WeChat super-app.
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