ByteDance in talks to sell its Indian assets TikTok
(Bloomberg) – ByteDance Ltd. would explore a sale of TikTok’s Indian operations to rival Unicorn Glance, with the aim of resurrecting the once-thriving short-video-sharing app that has been banned indefinitely in the South Asian nation.
The talks were initiated by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp., according to people familiar with the talks, who refused to be identified because the talks are private as well as early and complex. SoftBank is a funder to Glance’s parent, InMobi Pte, as well as TikTok’s Chinese parent, ByteDance.
The talks involve four sides, the people said. Talks are taking place between SoftBank, ByteDance and Glance and any deal will require final approval from Indian authorities. India has banned thousands of Chinese apps, including TikTok last year, following intense hostility on the Indo-China border.
SoftBank and ByteDance did not respond to emails seeking comment after hours. A Glance spokesperson declined to comment.
SoftBank attempted to reclaim Indian assets from TikTok and sought local partners even as the new U.S. administration suspended U.S. operations for the popular short video platform, asking a federal judge to suspend a trial after the former President Donald Trump banned it.
If the talks progress, the Indian government will insist that TikTok’s user data and technology remain within its borders, people familiar with it said. This is because relations between New Delhi and Beijing remain strained and India will not make any allocations for technology companies based in China, they said. New Chinese rules for exporting technology make negotiations even more complex, and any sale of TikTok may require approval from Chinese authorities.
TikTok’s dramatic turnaround in fortunes came last summer after the app reached over 200 million users in India, its largest market. The Indian government cited threats to its sovereignty and security to ban a host of Chinese apps such as artificial intelligence-powered TikTok, and last month indicated the ban was permanent. ByteDance then began to unwind its local operations, laying off hundreds of Indian employees, many of whom have since turned to local rivals.
TikTok’s potential partner, Glance Digital Experience, headquartered in Bangalore, is a mobile content platform launched by Harvard Business School alumnus Naveen Tewari. He is the founder of InMobi, the first Indian unicorn. Glance’s short video-sharing platform – 20-month-old Roposo – experienced a massive growth spurt after the TikTok ban, and she became a unicorn in December after a Google Inc. and billionaire Peter Thiel’s Mithril Capital.
Dozens of short video app competitors have mushroomed in India after the TikTok ban, which accelerated the growth of Glance and Roposo and pushed the user base to over 130 million.