TikTok owner ByteDance moves forward with IPO plans: FT

9 Aug 2021

Image: © AdriaVidal/Stock.adobe.com

The company had shelved its listing plans earlier this year after scrutiny from Chinese regulators over its handling of data.

ByteDance, the parent company of social media sensation TikTok, is moving forward with plans for an IPO in Hong Kong later this year or in early 2022, according to the Financial Times (FT).

The newspaper cited three people with “knowledge of the company’s plans”. A spokesperson for ByteDance subsequently said the report was “inaccurate”, but declined to elaborate further.

The FT quoted a source as saying: “We are expecting final guidance from ByteDance in September. They are submitting all the filings with Chinese authorities right now and are going through the review process.”

The company had begun preparations to go public in the US or Hong Kong earlier this year, but reportedly shelved the plans after Chinese regulators expressed concerns about the company’s data security practices.

China has tightened its tech regulatory regime in recent months, hitting Alibaba with a $2.8bn fine in April and ordering a number of companies including ByteDance to follow stricter financial rules.

Chinese ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing held a successful New York IPO in early July but just days later was removed from Chinese app stores at the behest of local regulators, which cited data protection concerns. Authorities then announced that any company holding data for more than 1m users would be required to undergo a review of security practices before holding an overseas IPO. The Cyberspace Administration of China said it was concerned about data being accessed by foreign governments.

The FT’s source said ByteDance was “in similar meetings as Didi” and had “decided not to continue with a New York listing”. The decision to abandon a potential US listing may have been affected by the increased regulatory scrutiny associated with IPOs outside China.

As well as TikTok, ByteDance has a counterpart app for the Chinese market called Douyin, which has more than half a billion daily active users in the country.

TikTok has been the target of legal pressure outside of China too. The app is the target of a billion-pound lawsuit in the UK over its handling of children’s data. In July, it removed more than 7m accounts suspected of being operated by children younger than 13.

Co-founder Zhang Yiming stepped down as CEO of ByteDance in May. He said that he lacked “some of the skills that make an ideal manager” and that he “struggle[d] to keep up” with some of the technical aspects of the job. He was succeeded by fellow co-founder Liang Rubo.

Jack Kennedy is a freelance journalist based in Dublin