ByteDance valued at US$250 billion in private trades ahead of potential IPO

The company's value has surged in recent weeks as investors gain confidence in the business. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG)- Shares of ByteDance, the Chinese parent of hit video app TikTok, are trading at a valuation of more than US$250 billion (S$336.9 billion) in the secondary market, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company's value has surged in recent weeks as investors gain confidence in the business and founder Zhang Yiming weighs options for an initial public offering (IPO), said the people, asking not to be named because the transactions are private. ByteDance was valued at US$140 billion during its last fundraising, according to CB Insights.

The company's shares traded at a roughly US$200 billion valuation in private transactions just a month ago, one of the people said. At US$250 billion, ByteDance would be more valuable than Exxon Mobil or Coca-Cola.

A representative for the company didn't respond to requests for comment.

Mr Zhang, who founded ByteDance in 2012, has demonstrated the rare ability to create repeated hit services in competition with giants like Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding. His first big success was the news service Toutiao, which has since been eclipsed by TikTok and Douyin, a twin video app for China's domestic market. The company's revenue more than doubled to about US$35 billion last year.

ByteDance tangled with former US President Donald Trump's administration, which vowed to force the Chinese company to sell TikTok because of alleged national security concerns. But the Biden administration has said it will reassess the situation, opening the door to ByteDance retaining part or all of the fast-growing business.

Mr Zhang just hired Xiaomi's Chew Shou Zi as his chief financial officer, fueling speculation over the social media giant's plans to go public. Mr Chew oversaw Xiaomi's IPO as finance chief more than two years ago and would give ByteDance a seasoned CFO to reassure investors. Mr Chew had overseen Xiaomi's smartphone international expansion before his departure.

ByteDance had been exploring plans to list some of its businesses including Douyin in Hong Kong, Bloomberg News reported in November. But it is increasingly likely that Mr Zhang would take his whole company public, one of the people said.

ByteDance's smaller rival Kuaishou Technology went public in February in Hong Kong to feverish investor demand. Its stock more than doubled from its IPO price and its valuation pushed north of US$140 billion. That performance may be prompting a reevaluation of TikTok's parent, with some investors recently asking for the equivalent of a US$350 billion valuation to part with their shares, the people said.

ByteDance still faces regulatory uncertainty. Besides the unresolved US administration effort to force a potential TikTok sale, Beijing regulators have embarked on a wide-ranging effort to crack down on the country's powerful technology giants.

President Xi Jinping warned in March the government will go after so-called "platform" companies that have amassed data and market power. Beijing is considering the creation of a state-backed entity that would oversee the lucrative data that tech companies collect from customers, people familiar with the matter have said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.