TikTok owner ByteDance offers employees buyback option at higher price to boost confidence

Technology

TikTok logo is displayed on the screen of a smartphone.
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Chinese technology giant ByteDance is offering to buy back stock options from employees at a higher price than earlier this year, in a bid to boost motivation and inject confidence among employees after a challenging year.

ByteDance, which owns popular short video app TikTok, on Wednesday told employees outside of the U.S. that it is willing to purchase restricted stock units (RSU) or options from them for $160 each, up from the $155 price it was offering in April, a person familiar with the matter, who was not authorized to speak publicly, told CNBC.

The exercise is optional. U.S. employees were given the same deal earlier this year.

RSUs or options are an instrument employees can purchase, which convert into actual shares if the company goes public or gets acquired.

A ByteDance spokesperson confirmed the plan to CNBC and said the company aims to provide liquidity of its RSUs and options to motivate employees through buyback programs.

It has been a challenging few years for ByteDance, which has faced tougher regulation at home, a fall in valuation and scrutiny of its flagship app TikTok in the U.S.

In March, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was grilled by U.S. lawmakers who have grown concerned that American user data can end up in the hands of the Chinese government.

ByteDance is not public. Longer-standing private technology companies may offer to buy back options to give them liquidity, in a bid by management to signal their confidence in the prospects of the business in the future.

It is also a way for early employees who may have purchased stock options at a cheaper price to make some return on their investment.

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