Microsoft is reportedly in talks to buy TikTok's US operations

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesMicrosoft CEO Satya Nadella.
  • President Donald Trump reportedly plans to direct China’s ByteDance to divest itself from the viral-video app TikTok’s US operations.
  • Microsoft is in talks to buy the stake, according to multiple reports.
  • Some US investors recently valued TikTok at $US50 billion.
  • In a statement to Business Insider, a TikTok representative said, “While we do not comment on rumours or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok.” Microsoft declined to comment.
  • Are you a Microsoft employee with insight to share? Contact reporter Ashley Stewart via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-425-344-8242) or email ([email protected]).
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump reportedly plans to order TikTok’s China-based parent company, ByteDance, to sell the viral-video app’s US operations – and Microsoft has emerged as a potential buyer.

Bloomberg reported Friday afternoon that Trump was planning to sign an executive order directing ByteDance to “divest its ownership” of TikTok’s US operations. Reports then emerged,first from Fox Business Network’s Charles Gasparino, of Microsoft’s possible interest in acquiring TikTok. Bloomberg reported later on Friday that other bidders are also interested in TikTok, though it did not give specific names.

TikTok, which has more than 2.3 billion downloads worldwide, has recently been valued between $US30 billion and $US50 billion.

It’s not quite clear where TikTok would fit into Microsoft’s business. Microsoft’s major presence in social networking is LinkedIn, which is aimed at working professionals. Microsoft recently shut down Mixer, its video-game streaming service that competed with Amazon’s Twitch.

It’s also worth noting that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, was founded in 2012 by a former Microsoft employee, Zhang Yiming.

In a statement to Business Insider, a TikTok representative said, “While we do not comment on rumours or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok.” Microsoft declined to comment.

But some analysts told Business Insider that buying TikTok could win Microsoft accolades from the app’s millions of users who are worried about the Trump administration’s threats, first made in early July, to ban the app in the US. The Trump administration has been weighing banning TikTok over concerns about its ties to China and the potential for its government to access user data and content moderation.

Since TikTok came to the US in 2018 and found an energetic and growing base of as many as 80 million users, lawmakers and privacy advocates have scrutinised the amount of access and influence the Chinese government is afforded over TikTok’s user data and content moderation through its parent company, ByteDance. TikTok has said it is not subject to Chinese data laws and would not comply with such a demand from China’s s government.

But TikTok’s China ties have attracted even more attention in recent months after the president and administration officials said earlier this month they’re weighing a ban on the app. One possibility, raised by the White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow earlier this month, could see TikTok pull out of China and operate as an “independent American company.”

The resulting uncertainty in TikTok’s future has reportedly led ByteDance executives and investors to explore alternatives to avoid a US ban. Earlier this month, a group of ByteDance’s US investors, including Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic,were looking into buying a majority stake in TikTok, according to The Information. But The Information reported Friday that those talks had failed, because of concerns that such a takeover “wouldn’t pass muster with the Trump administration.”

It’s unclear what power Trump has to force a foreign company such as ByteDance to “divest” from TikTok’s US operations. It’s also unclear how TikTok or ByteDance will respond to an order, but Trump’s move would represent an escalation in the administration’s attacks on TikTok and other Chinese tech companies.

Are you a Microsoft employee with insight to share? Contact reporter Ashley Stewart via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-425-344-8242) or email ([email protected]).


Are you a TikTok or ByteDance employee?

Contact reporter Paige Leskin at
[email protected] using a non-work device. Open DMs on Twitter @paigeleskin.

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