Chinese tech giant ByteDance Ltd (字節跳動) is considering listing its domestic business in Hong Kong or Shanghai, people familiar with the matter said, against a backdrop of rising US-China tensions over its hit non-China video app TikTok.
Of the two venues, the company prefers Hong Kong, two of the people said.
One of the two added that ByteDance is simultaneously studying the option to list its smaller, non-China business — including TikTok, which is not available in China — in Europe or the US.
The eight-year-old Beijing-based technology and media company had originally wanted to list as a combined entity, including TikTok and other operations, in New York or Hong Kong in a blockbuster deal.
TikTok allows smartphone users to film and upload short videos with special effects within seconds.
However, ByteDance has been in talks with bourse operator Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd (HKEX) over the China business listing, one of the people said.
The company was also discussing it with Chinese securities regulators, the other two people added.
Reuters previously reported that China accounts for the bulk of ByteDance revenue, which one source said was about US$16 billion last year.
A standalone listing could value the China business at more than US$100 billion in Hong Kong or on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s STAR market two sources said.
The review of separate plans for the China business comes amid growing concerns over US regulatory scrutiny and uncertainty over whether a 2013 audit deal between Beijing and Washington, which underpins Chinese firms listing in the US, would remain intact.
The people interviewed by Reuters said that the idea of splitting the whole business into two public listings and the venue discussions are preliminary, and subject to change. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was private.
Plans might also be complicated by some heavyweight ByteDance investors looking to take over TikTok at a valuation of US$50 billion.
TikTok faces pressure from US regulators who have spoken about banning the app, or requiring ByteDance to sell it, over suspicions Beijing could force its owner to turn over data on US users.
ByteDance declined to comment. HKEX said that it does not comment on individual companies.
The China Securities Regulatory Commission did not respond to a request to comment.
ByteDance was valued at as much as US$140 billion earlier this year when one of its shareholders, Cheetah Mobile Inc (獵豹移動), sold a small stake in a private deal, Reuters has reported.
It generated about US$2.9 billion in profit last year, one of the people familiar with the matter said.
The company has set a revenue target for this year of about 200 billion yuan (US$28.7 billion). TikTok, over the same period, is expected to hit revenue of US$1 billion.
The bulk of revenue comes from advertising on apps under its Chinese operations, including Douyin (抖音) — a Chinese version of TikTok — and news aggregator app Jinri Toutiao (今日頭條), as well as videostreaming app Xigua and Pipixia, an app for jokes and humorous videos.
Some of the company’s other overseas apps include work collaboration tool Lark and music streaming app Resso.
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