TikTok For Sale? ByteDance Denies Rumors of Dumping a Majority Stake

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Photo Credit: ByteDance / Twitter

Is TikTok really for sale?

ByteDance has denied rumors that it is looking to sell a majority stake in TikTok. An initial report says the rising spying concerns are at heart.

So far, ByteDance has worked to separate TikTok from its Chinese operations. Those efforts are a response to a U.S. investigation led by the Committee on Foreign Investment. That investigation was prompted after Senator Marco Rubio sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

TikTok is installed on hundreds of millions of devices across the globe. Spying concerns arise because any China-based business may be forced to comply with a request from the Chinese government. The U.S. Navy has banned TikTok from government-issued devices over cybersecurity concerns, too.

Selling a majority stake in TikTok may help assuage some of those fears since ByteDance would no longer have unilateral control of the social media app. Bloomberg’s initial reporting on the rumor says advisors are pitching all ideas. “Everything from an aggressive legal defense and operational separation for TikTok to sale of a majority stake,” sources said.

While ByteDance has denied the rumor, sources say the company believes it could make at least $10 billion. If a sale does proceed, ByteDance is said to favor company investors like SoftBank, Susquehanna International Group, or Sequoia Capital.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that ByteDance is seeking a headquarters for TikTok outside of China. A company spokesperson told Reuters that there are “no discussions about any partial or full sale of TikTok” and “these rumors are completely meritless.”

A memo to staff obtained by Reuters confirmed the messaging to TikTok employees. The memo is written by TikTok chief Alex Zhu and called media rumors ‘inaccurate.’

“From time to time, you may read stories in the media that are not true. Today there is an inaccurate report claiming that ByteDance has considered selling part or all of TikTok. We went on the record saying it was not true, but they decided to publish it anyway. I want to assure you that we have had no discussions with potential buyers of TikTok, nor do we have any intention to,” reads the memo.

So perhaps TikTok isn’t for sale, after all.  At least not yet.