December 14, 2018

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Bytedance of China Eyes $75 Billion Valuation, Joining Start-Up Giants

Bytedance of China Eyes $75 Billion Valuation, Joining Start-Up Giants
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HONG KONG — In the United States, the fortunes of giant social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter have wobbled as they have been blamed for abetting abusive discourse and hosting malicious political influence campaigns.

But in China, the titans of social media are still getting bigger and richer.

Bytedance, the creator of the news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, the video-sharing service Tik Tok and a fleet of other entertainment apps, is in discussions to raise new funding that would value the business at $75 billion, according to people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity to discuss confidential talks.

The Japanese conglomerate SoftBank is among the investors involved in the talks, one of these people said.

A $75 billion valuation would make Bytedance one of the world’s most valuable private tech companies — Uber was recently valued at $76 billion. It would also give Bytedance financial heft comparable to that of some publicly traded high-tech leaders. Baidu, maker of China’s dominant search engine, has a market capitalization of around $80 billion.

A spokeswoman for Bytedance declined to comment. The talks with SoftBank were reported earlier by The Information.

In the six years since the company’s founding, Bytedance’s apps have become a major draw for users — and advertisers — in the world’s largest online population. And the company wants to conquer phone screens far beyond China, too.

Last year, it bought Musical.ly, a video-based social network popular with teenagers in the United States and Europe, and folded it into Tik Tok. Musical.ly had been notable for being one of the rare Chinese social media companies to have attracted a significant following outside China.

Today, half a billion people worldwide use either Tik Tok or its Chinese edition, Douyin, every month, Bytedance says. By comparison, Instagram, where short, homemade videos are also a major draw, has more than a billion users.

Coming from China, where the government maintains strict and ever-changing controls on information, Bytedance has weathered unique turbulence as it has grown. Last year, the company had to suspend updates to its news app Toutiao after China’s internet regulator accused it of spreading unsavory material. This April, a Bytedance app for sharing bawdy jokes and videos was ordered offline entirely.

The authorities in Indonesia briefly banned Tik Tok this year for hosting “negative” content.

Zhang Yiming, Bytedance’s founder and chief executive, offered a display of contrition after the joke app, Neihan Duanzi, was shuttered. He apologized for the company’s failure to respect “core socialist values,” and thanked China’s government for enabling tech start-ups’ rapid development.

Mr. Zhang also said that Bytedance would expand its team for monitoring content to 10,000 people from 6,000.

Follow Raymond Zhong on Twitter: @zhonggg.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page B3 of the New York edition with the headline: Tech Start-Up Bytedance Is Said to Try for $75 Billion. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe





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