Toutiao-owner Beijing Bytedance eyes HK IPO at $45b valuation: Report

FILE PHOTO: The Hong Kong Exchanges flag, Chinese national flag and Hong Kong flag are hoisted outside the Hong Kong Stocks Exchange in Hong Kong June 7, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

Beijing Bytedance Technology Co, owner of China’s largest mobile-based news and content platform Toutiao, is reportedly discussing a possible initial public offering (IPO) that may value the company at over $45 billion.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Bytedance, which was valued at more than $20 billion in an equity fundraising round in late 2017, is considering an IPO in Hong Kong, although details on how much it intends to raise were still unavailable.

Bytedance may also hold off its IPO plans until the first quarter of next year, according to a source quoted in the report. Founded in 2012, it owns a series of content platforms including Toutiao, Topbuzz, Flipagram and other UGC short-form video apps.

Toutiao aggregates news and videos from hundreds of media outlets and has become one of the world’s largest news services in the span of five years. It owns what is currently the world’s most downloaded iPhone app, the short video app Tik Tok, also known in China as Douyin.

Bytedance plans to make Toutiao a global content and technology conglomerate after Toutiao raised $3 billion in April 2017 for its global expansion and achieved a valuation of $20 billion.

In March, Toutiao led a $200-million Series E investment in Beijing-based online education platform

Last month, China’s social media giants Tencent and Toutiao dragged each other to court over alleged unfair competition and defamation, following weeks of a widely publicized feud.

Saying “we can’t bear it anymore” on its Weibo account, Tencent made the first legal move by taking its smaller rival to a Beijing court on June 1, claiming that it has suffered more than one instance of defamation since May at the hand of Toutiao.

Shanghai-based Toutiao appeared unfazed. In the same Beijing court and on the same day, Toutiao slapped Tencent with a lawsuit, claiming unfair competition when the bigger player allegedly blocked Toutiao’s content on its platforms.

A Toutiao spokesman said Tencent “has been using a variety of excuses to block our content”. According to court documents, Toutiao demanded a public apology and RMB 90 million ($14 million) in compensation.

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