Jinri Toutiao parent company Bytedance is recruiting employees from embattled Chinese smartphone maker Smartisan, shortly after licensing its patents amid the content giant’s push into online education.

Rumors of Smartisan employees being asked to sign new contracts with Bytedance have circulated on the Chinese internet since Tuesday. According to Jiemian (in Chinese), dozens of staff members were given contracts at Smartisans Beijing headquarters with Welcome to Bytedance on the cover.

Employees were reportedly asked to abandon equities and annual leave, among other benefits, they had at Smartisan. Human resource personnel from Bytedance have also reportedly been resident at Smartisans Beijing office recently.

A Bytedance spokesperson confirmed the ongoing recruitment of Smartisan workers to TechNode, adding that it forms part of the normal talent flow between the two companies. Smartisan was not immediately available for comment.

Bytedance, which also owns Douyin, known as Tiktok internationally, licensed a number of Smartisans patents earlier this month. The Chinese content giant claimed the agreement is geared toward developing its online education business. The company aims to use Smartisan’s tech for research and development related to electronic educational devices. Bytedance has been operating online education platform Gogokid since May 2018, targeting Tencent-backed education company Vipkid.

The recent changes have led to speculation that Smartisan is negotiating its acquisition with Bytedance. A Bytedance spokesperson declined to comment on the topic.

Smartisan has seen a series of crises over the few past months. Last month, the company removed CEO Luo Yonghao as legal representative while 10 top executives were stripped of their directorships. It later had its bank account frozen by a Beijing court amid calls for the company to repay its debts.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen

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