Chinese tech giant ByteDance may be ready toafter all, with reports in recent days saying the social networking app’s sale may be finalized soon.
A deal for TikTok’s US, New Zealand and Australian operations is expected to be announced sometime soon, according to reports in CNBC, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, each citing sources who wished to remain anonymous. It is unclear how China’smight impact the deal, which some of the reports say could hinge on whether ByteDance sells the computer program that powers TikTok’s recommendations and helps boost viral trends.
So far, Microsoft, Oracle and “a third US company” have made bids on TikTok, CNBC reported last week, noting that retail giant Walmart said it’s teaming up with Microsoft for its bid. That report also said TikTok’s US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand businesses are valued at up to $30 billion.
Walmart said in a statement last week 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 [different types of] customers as well as grow our third-party marketplace and advertising businesses,” Walmart said in the statement.
According to CNBC,, but switched to Microsoft when it wasn’t able to gain a majority stake in TikTok if it partnered with Alphabet.
TikTok, Microsoft and Oracle have declined to comment at several times throughout the past week.
The news comes after TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer resigned last week, marking ahelming the company after running Disney’s streaming video business.
The video-focused social networking app has had a rocky past few months. The app has grown over the past year to more than 100 million users in the US andaround the world, making it a cultural phenomenon particularly among teenagers. Its short-video format has helped dance and comedy sketches go viral both on its service as well as on 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 that TikTok poses a national security risk, in part because its owner, ByteDance, is a Chinese company. The argument is that ByteDance, via TikTok, collects reams of user data and that this can be used by China’s ruling Communist party against US interests.
President Donald Trump said he intends to ban the app from the US by early November unless it’s purchased by an American company, touching off an odd acquisition process among the tech industry’s, 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 on Aug. 6 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, Trump has since demanded the entire app be sold, not just its US operations, and that he wants a “very big proportion” of the sale. Legal experts question whether he can make such demands, and claiming that the “executive order is not rooted in bona fide national security concerns.”