ByteDance, the Chinese internet company and owner of short video platform giant TikTok, launched a share buyback this week for current and former employees, according to people familiar with the matter.
The buyback comes after ByteDance announced in April that it did not have imminent plans for a public listing. Earlier reports suggested that the company had planned to list some of its Chinese businesses including TikTok’s Chinese version Douyin in Hong Kong.
Last week, company founder Zhang Yiming unexpectedly announced that he will step down as CEO, a move that comes as Chinese regulators are increasing scrutiny of the country’s biggest technology firms.
He handed over the reins to the company’s human resources head Rubo Liang. Mr. Zhang retreated from the spotlight just as the Chinese government intensified efforts to curb the influence of internet firms and their billionaire founders, from Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group to Tencent Holdings. The antitrust campaign coincides with a series of moves from ByteDance that could shake up the country’s internet landscape.
According to sources, ByteDance said eligible shareholders can apply to sell their holdings by June 20 at $126 per share for current employees and $100.80 per share for former employees. The price for current employees during an earlier buyback last November was $60 a share, the sources said. Beijing-based ByteDance declined to offer any comments.
The nine-year-old company, which is the most valuable startup in the world, typically launches share buybacks twice a year, the sources said, declining to be named as the information is not public. Apparently, some ByteDance employees recently expressed frustration on social media for not being able to sell their shares in an IPO.
The company has been in serious crosshairs with the US governments especially under the administration of former President Donald Trump. TikTok was accused of leaking user data to the Chinese government and was asked to divest its US business. The plan has been shelved after much discussions and deliberations.