It Seems Like a Sale of TikTok May Be in the Offing, but How Much Would It Cost?

TikTok could be worth $50 billion, and many companies may not be all that keen on owning it.


Mar. 14 2024, Published 11:16 a.m. ET

A TikTok logo on a phone with an American flag behind it.
Source: Getty Images

Now that a bill to ban TikTok has passed through one chamber of Congress, many of TikTok's 170 million US users are concerned about the possibility that the app could really be banned in the US. Of course, this "ban" may not even be necessary. TikTok could continue to operate in the US even if the bill goes into effect, but under some pretty specific conditions.

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The bill's main concern is the fact that TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, so the bill allows for TikTok's continued operation, but only if ByteDance sells the company or divests from it. Now that it seems like a sale of TikTok could be necessary, here's what we know about how much it would actually cost to buy the thing.

A zoomed in TikTok logo on a phone.
Source: Getty Images
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How much does TikTok cost to buy?

TikTok's ballooning popularity and massive US user base have naturally driven the expected price tag for the company quite high. The New York Times has reported that the company's valuation sits at roughly $50 billion, and further that few companies will likely be willing pony up the money for the service if that is the price attached. That's true both for other companies in the tech sector, and for those outside of it.

Companies like Meta, Google, and Microsoft certainly have enough money to be able to afford the platform, but are likely to shy away from purchasing the app in order to avoid allegations that they are becoming monopolies. Of course, owning TikTok also means regulating what gets put on the platform, which is enough of a headache for many of these platforms already.

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On top of the exorbitant price tag, though, there are also lots of questions about what exactly it would look like for ByteDance to disentangle itself from TikTok, and the additional question of whether such an acquisition would be approved by the Chinese government.

It's possible that Byte Dance could simply choose to spin the company off into its own entity, or that private equity could swoop in to purchase the company. These options appear to be relatively remote, though.

Source: YouTube
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The issue is complicated politically.

Although many politicians of both parties clearly believe that TikTok poses a national security threat, that doesn't necessarily mean that banning the app is popular with the American people. 31% of people were in support of a ban in a recent survey, while 35% opposed it.

President Biden, who is supportive of a ban, is also trying to win reelection in part by courting some of the voters who are most likely to be on TikTok.

Obviously, then, it's a risky move politically for him to be publicly supportive of a ban, and yet he's moving ahead with what he believes is right. The future of TikTok has never been more uncertain than it is now, but it's worth acknowledging that the ban is not a sure thing. It's possible that the bill will fail in the Senate, and all the worry will be for nothing.

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