October 29, 2020
TikTok sale appears imminent. Rumors fly as Microsoft and Walmart team up for bid

TikTok sale appears imminent. Rumors fly as Microsoft and Walmart team up for bid


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

Angela Lang/CNET

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

CNBC reported Thursday that a 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 also 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 [different types of] customers as well as grow our third-party marketplace and advertising businesses,” Walmart said in the statement.

Walmart 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 late Wednesday, marking a sudden end to his three-month tenure helming the company after running Disney’s streaming video business. 

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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 and more than 2 billion downloads around 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 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 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 to go to the US Treasury. Legal experts question whether he can make such demands, and TikTok has since sued claiming that the “executive order is not rooted in bona fide national security concerns.”

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