TikTok may get more investors
Oracle-Walmart deal could put valuation near $62.5b: report
Published: Sep 20, 2020 08:58 PM

TikTok Photo: VCG

ByteDance, the Beijing-based start-up behind popular video-sharing platform TikTok, confirmed to the Global Times on Sunday that it's possible more investors will be introduced to the pre-IPO deal in addition to Oracle and Walmart, as no specific agreement has been signed yet.

ByteDance, Oracle and Walmart have reached an agreement in principle to strengthen TikTok's business in the US, according to a ByteDance statement on Sunday.

"The three parties will reach a cooperative agreement, subject to US and Chinese government approvals as required by applicable laws, as soon as possible," it read.

US President Donald Trump said on Saturday he has approved a deal between ByteDance and Oracle, giving the deal his "blessing."

The US Commerce Department confirmed in a statement on Saturday that it would delay restrictions on TikTok by one week beyond the original deadline of Sunday.

TikTok said in a statement on Sunday that both Oracle and Walmart will take part in a TikTok Global pre-IPO financing round in which they can take up to a 20-percent aggregate stake in the company. "We will also maintain and expand TikTok Global's headquarters in the US, while bringing 25,000 jobs across the country," said TikTok.

The new company in which ByteDance intends to team up with Oracle - the technology partner - will go by the name TikTok Global, and it reportedly plans an IPO in the US in about a year.

Dong Dengxin, director of the Finance and Securities Institute at Wuhan University of Science and Technology, told the Global Times on Sunday that introducing Oracle and Walmart as investors will significantly increase the financing scale of the TikTok IPO if it happens a year from now.

"With its core technologies being retained, ByteDance is expected to create more products like TikTok based on its innovation ability," said Dong.

An investment manager in the high-tech sector, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Global Times on Sunday that if TikTok is forcibly cut off from ByteDance, the parent that supports its core technology like algorithms, and comes under the auspices of other companies, the entity might soon amount to nothing.

"Now via restructuring, TikTok could retain its major advantages in the market while its US investors could still wait and seek lucrative returns in the future," said the manager.

Oracle said it will take a 12.5-percent stake in the new TikTok Global, while Walmart said that it plans to take a 7.5-percent stake, and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon would serve on its five-member board.

TikTok Global will be majority-owned by American investors, including Oracle and Walmart, according to media reports. TikTok Global will be an independent American company, based in the US, with four Americans out of the five-member board.

ByteDance's existing investors include US-based venture capital General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital.

The investment from Oracle and Walmart totals about 100 billion yuan ($12.5 billion) and the valuation of TikTok could reach about $62.5 billion, domestic news outlet reported, citing sources.

The TikTok entity was valued in the range of $30-50 billion according to media reports, when the company was earlier facing a forced sale under the US' mafia-style crackdown.

Wang Chao, founder of the Wenyuan Institute for Politics and Economics, a Beijing-based think tank, told the Global Times that ByteDance might become the single largest shareholder in the new company, although a majority stake will no longer be in the hands of the Chinese company, which is a "forced compromise" by founder Zhang Yiming and his team.

"Being the single largest shareholder still counts for a lot for ByteDance and the future development of TikTok Global," said Wang, noting the "the current teaming-up solution is so far the best for all parties."

However, there is also the possibility that the Trump administration will reverse its previous decision and exert pressure again on the Chinese firm, Wang said, but that will not change the ultimate outcome of a solution being approved.

TikTok has achieved rapid development in recent years, and the new corporate structure is expected to maintain its momentum without the US government's relentless meddling, according to Fang Xingdong, director of the Consortium of Internet and Society at the Communication University of Zhejiang.

"Now different parties are competing with each other about how to allocate the benefits from the TikTok assets. Once that's done, the US government will not easily intervene," which would hurt American companies, said Fang.

TikTok has 100 million users in the US, and the app's popularity is global with over 2 billion downloads worldwide, according to media reports.