US fails to slam brakes on £100bn TikTok boom as profits at Chinese owner surge

Business is booming at the Chinese owner of TikTok despite attempts in Washington to ban the video-sharing app.

Profits at Bytedance rose 60 per cent last year to more than £30billion after revenues at the Beijing-based technology group hit £94billion as it closed in on the £100billion mark.

This topped the £63billion in 2022. TikTok, launched in 2016, has exploded in popularity since the pandemic, with over a billion users worldwide today.

These include some of the world’s biggest stars such as Kylie Jenner, Selena Gomez and Will Smith. It has been suggested that Smith earns so much from TikTok that he no longer needs to act.

And it has become a vehicle to help people who are unknown to find fame and fortune.

Will Smith

Top of the Toks: TikTok has over a billion users worldwide including some of the world’s biggest stars such as Selena Gomez, left, and Will Smith, right

Factory worker turned social media star Khaby Lame is currently the world’s most-followed person on the app, with a whopping 161.4m followers.

Lame, 23, found a career as an influencer after losing his job and now makes millions of pounds a year through adverts and brand endorsements.

And TikTok’s growing popularity has also led to its parent firm Bytedance becoming one of the world’s most valuable start-ups – worth £200billion.

But its latest bumper figures come as the group faces mounting pressure in the US.

Last month Washington moved a step closer to banning TikTok after the House of Representatives passed a bill calling for parent company Bytedance to sell its stake in the US version – or face the boot.

The company has been accused of allowing the Chinese government to access sensitive user data and influence users.

TikTok, which has an estimated 170m users in the US, has denied these allegations.

‘Bytedance is not owned or controlled by the Chinese government. It is a private company,’ TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew said in a testimony to Congress last month.

TikTok maintains that its data is stored outside China, in Singapore and the US.

Some experts say the strong 2023 profits act as a further red flag for regulators.

‘This is another flex-the-muscles moment for Bytedance and TikTok showing massive advertising and subscriber growth. This will further fuel the regulatory spider web in the US,’ said Dan Ives, analyst at Wedbush.

The Indian government pulled the plug on the app in 2020 after a violent clash at the India-China border. 

Officials said apps such as TikTok posed a ‘threat to sovereignty and integrity’.

The UK has resisted a ban, but the app was blocked from Government devices last year after a review found there ‘could’ be a risk.

In February Universal Music pulled millions of songs from TikTok in a row over payments. 

Universal, which controls a third of the world’s songs, including hits from Taylor Swift and the Beatles, accused it of offering a bad deal. Social media sites pay labels and musicians to stream their music.