TikTok’s price is a question mark in already complex deal

Analysts and bankers have pegged the value of TikTok's U.S. business anywhere from $20 billion to $50 billion, a wide range that reflects the complexity involved in separating TikTok's American and global businesses, in determining a reliable number of users, and how revenue breaks out just for the markets at stake in the deal. Microsoft’s discussions also include TikTok’s business in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

ByteDance generated more than $3 billion of net profit on $17 billion in revenue last year, helping lead to a private-market valuation of more than $100 billion, making it the world’s most valuable startup.

But venture capital investors’ stakes are in ByteDance as a whole, not in TikTok, so there hasn’t been a clear valuation for a standalone TikTok. On top of that, because Microsoft is considering buying only the app’s operations in four countries, a further carving out from the broader TikTok business would be necessary. Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, estimates that TikTok's U.S. operations account for about 40% of ByteDance's valuation, or about $40 billion.

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