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Will TikTok’s deal with Indonesian e-commerce giant Tokopedia set precedent to make allies out of enemies?

It made sense for Tokopedia, GoTo Chief Executive Officer Patrick Walujo said, as the e-commerce platform was burning cash and had seen transaction volumes decline by more than 25 per cent at the start of last year.

It needed the injection of cash for it to keep growing in a challenging market, Walujo said in an interview with This Week in Asia.

Walujo, one of the first investors in Gojek, the ride-hailing and on-demand service that is the other part of GoTo, has every reason to be upbeat after winning what he describes as a “beauty contest”, with his company not initially in the running with other competitors vying for the TikTok deal.

The sale has stirred concerns about foreign ownership of big companies in Indonesia, a suggestion Walujo shrugged off as unwarranted, as he expressed confidence it would enable Tokopedia to chart future growth and make a greater impact rather than wither away into irrelevance.

It was a case of willing buyer, willing seller, he said, as the options for Tokopedia were narrowing. The other part of the deal that was attractive was a 0.4 per cent fee on both TikTok and Tokopedia’s combined transaction amounts as a revenue stream for GoTo with no associated cost. “That’s immediate profit,” he said.

Currently valued at US$225 billion, ByteDance is the most valuable privately owned global start-up, according to CB Insights. In 2023, it was reported to have made US$110 billion in sales, with 80 per cent of that from the Chinese market through the Mandarin version of TikTok, Douyin.

As the ban did not forbid joint ventures, the merger with Tokopedia will mean a back-end integration of their systems allowing purchases to be completed on Tokopedia even as the advertising or promotion of products continues