No one generates viral content quite like TikTok, but now its parent wants to try its hand at stopping viral infections.
On Tuesday, China-based ByteDance announced it’s buying a chain of hospitals for $1.5 billion. It’s not the first tech giant to enter the healthcare space, but this amounts to easily the most traditional play so far.
Is There an Influencer in the House?
There’s a lot more to ByteDance’s interest in healthcare than all the wildly popular TikToks of medical workers dancing to keep up morale during the pandemic. ByteDance has an existing healthcare app, Xiaohe, which offers online consultations and helps schedule hospital appointments — putting it in direct competition with similar offerings from Alibaba Health and Ping An Healthcare in an $89-billion digital health market that’s been turbocharged by China’s draconian pandemic measures.
Silicon Valley tech giants have also long had their ambitions trained on the healthcare space, whether it’s the growing suite of health apps on Apple Watch or Google’s myriad initiatives that include a health records tool and its secretive Calico subsidiary dedicated to extending the human lifespan. This year, Amazon took arguably the most straightforward step into the space thus far, when it announced a deal to buy One Medical, a primary care company with 182 medical offices staffed by physicians, for $3.5 billion.
ByteDance, however, is going even deeper into the tech-healthcare mashup:
- The hospital chain ByteDance is acquiring, Amcare Healthcare, is one of China’s largest, operating women’s and children’s facilities in major cities like Beijing to Shenzhen. This isn’t a tech company making a healthcare play; ByteDance is literally doing healthcare.
- The deal is also significant because Chinese regulators have in the last two years discouraged, and in some cases stopped, major acquisitions by tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent that pushed them into new markets. ByteDance even shrunk its investment arm in anticipation of further restrictions on dealmaking.
Other Fish to Fry: Lucky for ByteDance, Chinese regulators might be a tad distracted like, well, someone obsessively watching TikToks. On Tuesday, the country’s top auditor sprung a surprise, $3 trillion audit on the trust industry over concerns about risky loans to property developers.