Bytedance, the company behind the massively popular news aggregation app Jinri Toutiao, is considering a Hong Kong IPO that may value it at over $45 billion, according to media reports. The company would join a wave of Chinese tech listings which has been growing during the past six months.
However, at noon on July 10th, Bytedance responded to market rumors saying that the company had no plans and made no arrangements for listing at present, The Paper reports. The report did, however, note that Bytedance recently launched a shiny new official website in several languages that lists its technology and products, investment and cooperation deals, and more.
Although the company has not always been favored among Chinese regulators—its joke app Neihan Duanzi got shot down in April permanently and is not the only time it got in trouble with officials—Bytedance’s rise has seemed unstoppable.
After launching Toutiao in 2012, the company presented its first international product TopBuzz in 2015, followed by a series of acquisitions both home and abroad. In February 2017, it acquired mobile news aggregator Flipagram while its News Republic acquisition followed in November. That same month, Bytedance bought video platform Musical.ly.
Meanwhile, it’s own short video platform Douyin, known internationally as Tik Tok, has become the world’s most popular app topping the iOS download charts for non-game apps for the first quarter of 2018. What is less known is that Bytedance also invested in Indian aggregation app Dailyhunt and Indonesian news recommendation platform BaBe in 2016, and has entered a strategic cooperation on personalized content delivery services with Cheetah Mobile.
The company has ambitious plans for going global. At the sixth anniversary of Toutiao in March, CEO of Bytedance Zhang Yiming said that the company’s 2018 keyword is globalization and that it aims to have half of its users from overseas by 2020. At the end of 2017, the company was already covering China, Japan, Korea, Brazil, the US, Europe, Southeast Asia, and India.
Bytedance hasn’t been resting in its home ground either: it owns local short video platforms Xigua Video (AKA Watermelon Video) and Vigo Video (Huoshan AKA Volcano Video). In short, Bytedance has been building an AI-powered media empire.
But Bytedance has not risen without stepping on people’s toes. The company lost a court battle with Tencent in July last year over copyright violations. In May this year, Tencent’s CEO and chairman, Pony Ma and Zhang Yiming were caught bickering on their WeChat Moments, a function similar to Facebook’s wall. In a move rarely seen among tech moguls, Zhang accused Tencent’s social platform WeChat of making excuses to block Douyin from the platform. The two companies have both been investing in short video platforms, a trend which has taken China by storm.
In May, Bytedance busied its lawyers again by suing Tencent for defamation and requesting RMB 1 million in damages. It also sought an apology from the company. Tencent decided to strike back by suing Bytedance and Microvision Technology for a more modest sum of RMB 1 for alleged unfair competition and damaging its reputation.
The suing spree continued weeks after when Bytedance filed a RMB 10 million lawsuit against Baidu for unfair competition. This isn’t the first time that Bytedance has sued Baidu either. The company filed a suit a year earlier over illegal streaming of a TV show produced by Jinri Toutiao.
The duo clashed in court again more recently at the end of June over a former employee of Baidu who moved to ByteDance and thus violated its non-disclosure and non-compete agreements, according to Baidu.