ByteDance Said to Offer to Sell TikTok’s U.S. Operations

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ByteDance, the Chinese internet giant that owns TikTok, has offered to sell all of the popular video app’s American operations as a way to save the business from being banned by the Trump administration, a person with knowledge of the matter said on Saturday.

President Trump had told reporters on Friday that he was considering various options for TikTok, including banning it. White House officials have said the app may pose a national security threat because of its Chinese ownership. India, one of TikTok’s largest markets, banned the app in June, citing security concerns. That helped prompt the Trump administration to consider with greater urgency whether TikTok should be curbed in the United States as well.

ByteDance’s offer to completely divest TikTok’s American operations was reported earlier by Reuters.

It was not clear whether the Trump administration would accept the divestment as a sufficient response to its concerns. ByteDance had previously sought to keep a minority stake in TikTok’s American operations, but the administration rejected that, according to the person with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions are confidential.

Microsoft and other companies have been in talks to buy TikTok, but a deal has not yet been reached, the person added. Many of the parties are waiting for Mr. Trump to take action, one of the people said.

If Microsoft were to succeed in acquiring TikTok’s U.S. operations, it would fit a pattern of deal making under the software giant’s chief executive, Satya Nadella.

Under Mr. Nadella, who became Microsoft’s chief in early 2014, the company has made three major acquisitions totaling more than $35 billion: Mojang, the creator of popular online video game Minecraft; LinkedIn, the professional social network; and GitHub, an online network for software developers. All three are online communities that require large and sophisticated computing capability to operate — and to scale up for further growth.

Unlike other potential TikTok acquirers like Facebook and Google, Microsoft would probably not be stopped by antitrust challenges. Other than its gaming business, Microsoft is mainly in business technology markets.

And TikTok may also view Microsoft as a safe landing spot. Mr. Nadella has allowed Minecraft, LinkedIn and GitHub to keep operating largely independently. Microsoft, analysts said, has taken a patient stance with all three, adding resources to each and seeing how they develop rather than applying management controls from headquarters to seek higher profits quickly.

Microsoft declined to comment.


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