American company buys up stake in TikTok maker ByteDance amid scrutiny, report says
New York-based Tiger Global Management hasn't revealed how much it invested in ByteDance, but it comes as the company faces challenges on censorship and privacy policies in the US
Tiger Global Management has built up a stake in TikTok owner ByteDance, providing capital support to the Beijing-based company amid ongoing scrutiny from Washington over data privacy and censorship issues, the Financial Times reported on Monday.
In a letter to investors this week, the New York-based investment group said it has “purchased shares over the past 21 months at a low multiple of future free cash flow,” without disclosing the size of investment, according to the report. ByteDance has reached an implied valuation of between US$90 billion and US$100 billion in the secondary market, the FT reported, citing several people familiar with the transactions.
In 2018 ByteDance closed a US$3 billion funding round from investors led by Softbank, giving it a valuation of US$75 billion. Its investors also include Sequoia Capital.
ByteDance declined to comment on the new funding when reached on Tuesday. Tiger Global Management did not immediately respond to a phone call requesting comment.
ByteDance is facing a US national security inquiry into TikTok's handling of user data amid increased scrutiny of Chinese tech firms as tensions rise between the US and China over trade, national security and human rights issues. ByteDance’s Douyin short video platform and its overseas version TikTok were the world’s most downloaded non-game apps in February, according to Sensor Tower.
Besides short video apps, ByteDance operates news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, which has grown into a so-called super app in China, and more recently the company has been exploring the education market.
In a letter posted on ByteDance’s official WeChat account, company founder Zhang Yiming said education is a new business direction that will enable companies to cross borders. “Recently online education is a very hot [topic]. Many people came to ask me our business progress,” he said.
“I’m patient. I think it is still in a very early stage. The education business needs to have fundamental innovation, but of course [before we achieve it] we should have a deeper understanding first," Zhang said in the letter.
The company is also expanding into businesses like gaming and search. It achieved a video game hit in Japan with martial arts-themed Combat of Hero, sharpening its rivalry with gaming giant Tencent Holdings.
The mobile game, which was published by ByteDance-owned Ohayoo Studio in Japan last December, was the most downloaded free iOS title in the Japanese market for four consecutive days from March 7, according to data from apps analytics firm App Annie.
In a challenge to Chinese search giant Baidu, ByteDance said in a post on its WeChat account in July last year that “we are building a general search engine for a more ideal user experience.”