September 28, 2023

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TikTok sale appears imminent, rumors fly as Microsoft and Walmart team up for bid


Microsoft earlier confirmed it’s interested in acquiring the popular app.

Angela Lang/CNET

Chinese tech giant ByteDance may be ready to give up its control of TikTok after all, with a recent report saying the social networking app’s sale may be finalized within the next couple days.

A new report from CNBC says the deal for TikTok’s North American and Australian operations is expected to be announced “in the coming days,” citing sources who wished to remain anonymous. So far, Microsoft, Oracle and “a third US company” have made bids on TikTok, CNBC added, noting that retail giant Walmart said it’s teaming up with Microsoft for its bid. The report said TikTok’s US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand business are valued at up to $30 billion.

Walmart said in a statement to CNBC that it believes TikTok’s integration with advertising “is a clear benefit to creators and users in those markets,” and offers an opportunity to bring a new spin to e-commerce. “We believe a potential relationship with TikTok US in partnership with Microsoft could add this key functionality and provide Walmart with an important way for us to reach and serve [its different types of] customers as well as grow our third-party marketplace and advertising businesses,” Walmart said. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for further comment. Microsoft didn’t respond to requests for comment. TikTok and Oracle declined to comment.

The move comes following TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer’s resignation Thursday, marking a sudden end to his three month tenure helming the company after running Disney’s streaming video business. 

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The social networking app has had a rocky past few months. The company’s grown over the past year to more than 100 million users in the US and more than 2 billion downloads around the world, making it a cultural phenomenon particularly among teenagers. Its 15-second clip format’s helped its many dance and comedy sketch videos go viral both on its service as well as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

That popularity though has been blunted by announcements from a succession of US government agencies, the military, Congress and The White House warning TikTok poses a national security risk, in part because its owner, ByteDance, is a Chinese company. President Donald Trump said he intends to ban the app from the US unless it’s purchased by an American company, touching off an odd acquisition process among the tech industry’s largest non-social networking companies, particularly Microsoft.

“The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Trump said in his initial executive order announcing the upcoming ban.” At this time, action must be taken to address the threat posed by one mobile application in particular, TikTok.”

In a legally questionable move, he’s since demanded the entire app be sold, not just its American operations, and that he wants a “very big proportion” of the sale to go to the US Treasury. Legal experts question whether he can make such demands, and TikTok has since sued claiming, “the executive order is not rooted in bona fide national security concerns.”

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