ByteDance Revenue, Profit Leap in 2020 But No IPO in Sight

Privately-held startup ByteDance, owner of TikTok, reported that its revenue more than doubled to $34.3 billion last year, rising 111 percent from a year ago while gross profit rose 93 percent to $19 billion. As of December 2020, ByteDance — which also runs Douyin, the domestic Chinese version of TikTok, and Jinri Toutiao, a news aggregation app — had about 1.9 billion monthly active users on all its platforms. Due to share-based compensation to workers, the company had a $2.1 billion operating loss last year.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “for 2019, ByteDance had reported an operating profit of $684 million.” Its net loss for 2020 totaled $45 billion, “due largely to an accounting adjustment the company made for an increase in the fair value of its convertible redeemable preferred shares.”

Founded in 2012 by Chinese entrepreneur Zhang Yiming, ByteDance “has raised billions of dollars from global investors including KKR & Co., Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic.” In late 2020, it was valued at $180 billion “after a fundraising round that included Fidelity Investments and some of its existing shareholders.”

The company is considering an IPO but hasn’t “mapped out any timeline.” Meanwhile, earlier this year, its domestic rival Kuaishou Technology “listed in Hong Kong after raising $5.4 billion.” TikTok, which has been downloaded 240+ million times in the U.S., “is widely viewed as China’s most successful mobile Internet export.”

Advertising is its main source of revenue, and the company has made serious inroads into the global advertising market “as advertisers increasingly switch from traditional platforms to newer Internet formats to target consumers who are spending more of their time online since the coronavirus outbreak.”

Industry researcher R3 revealed that digital advertising sales in China “grew more than 20 percent in the first half of 2020 to 300 billion yuan, the equivalent of $46.9 billion, with short video, e-commerce and social-media platforms … [and that] Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and ByteDance attracted the most digital ad spending during the period.”

ByteDance ran into trouble with former president Donald Trump who “singled out TikTok as a national-security threat and sought to ban the app,” which president Joe Biden revoked. In China, ByteDance has “also run into some turbulence, as Chinese authorities seek to clamp down on the perceived excesses of its powerful technology sector … [and] in June, two of ByteDance’s apps were included on a list of 129 apps named by the Cyberspace Administration of China for excessive collection of personal information from users.”