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Start-ups

China’s Toutiao buys teens social video app Musical.ly in latest expansion

Reports say the deal is worth up to US$1 billion. It is Toutiao’s second acquisition in a week

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 November, 2017, 7:14pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 November, 2017, 7:14pm

Beijing ByteDance Technology, the operator of China’s dominant news aggregator Toutiao, has bought social video app Musical.ly, its second acquisition in a week as it aggressively seeks new users by widening its range of content offerings.

ByteDance did not give financial details of the deal in a statement on Friday, but Chinese media reports said the acquisition of Musical.ly, an app especially popular with teenagers that allows users to post videos of themselves accompanying their favourite songs, was valued at between US$800 million and US$1 billion.

The deal is expected to boost ByteDance’s presence overseas, adding Musical.ly’s around 100 million users worldwide – according to media reports – to Toutiao’s 120 million, most of whom are white-collar workers in smaller cities in China.

“By integrating Musical.ly’s global reach with ByteDance’s massive user base in China and key Asian markets, we are creating a significant global platform for our content creators and brands to engage with new markets,” said Zhang Yiming, founder and chief executive of ByteDance, in the statement.

“At the same time, our world-leading artificial intelligence technology will help Musical.ly to accelerate their incredible pace of innovation in mobile video creation.”

The acquisition is the latest overseas venture for ByteDance, a Beijing-based start-up founded in 2012 which ranks 12th in the CB Insights’ Global Unicorn Club list with a valuation of US$11 billion.

Earlier this week ByteDance acquired news and video aggregation platform News Republic from China’s Cheetah Mobile – itself an early investor in Musical.ly – for US$86.6 million. In February it bought US video creation app Flipagram.

ByteDance said Musical.ly will continue to operate as an independent platform, but the two will work together to extend Musical.ly’s reach in China and around Asia.

ByteDance’s Toutiao app uses AI to analyse readers’ habits and send them customised content. It also runs TopBuzz, an English-language news app similar to Toutiao.