ByteDance drops TikTok’s US sale, to partner with Oracle

Platform Economy: TikTok and US politics

ByteDance abandoned the purchase price of TikTok from the US on Sunday to pursue a partnership with Oracle it hopes will save it a US prohibit when appeasing China’s authorities, individuals knowledgeable about the matter told journalists.

The Beijing-based company was in discussions to divest TikTok’s US company to Oracle or a consortium headed by Microsoft Corp following US President Donald Trump purchased the sale and threatened to close down the short-video program in the United States.

While TikTok is famous for its anodyne movies of dance which go viral amongst adolescents, US officials also have voiced worries that consumer info might be passed to China’s communist government. TikTok, that has as many as 100 million US users, has stated it wouldn’t comply with any request to share these information with Chinese governments.

Sale discussions were upended by China upgrading its export control principles a month to give it a state over the transport of TikTok’s algorithm into a foreign purchaser. Reuters reported that China’s authorities would rather watch TikTok closed down at the United States than allow it to participate in a forced sale.

Under the proposition, Oracle Corp will likely be ByteDance’s technology partner and assume control of TikTok’s US consumer information, the sources stated. Oracle can also be negotiating carrying a bet in TikTok’s US surgeries, they included.

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A number of ByteDance’s leading backers, such as investment firms General Atlantic and Sequoia, are also awarded minority stakes from TikTok’s US operations under the proposition, among those sources mentioned.

It’s uncertain whether Trump, that desires a US tech business to possess most of TikTok from the United States, will approve the offer. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a US government panel that reviews deals for federal security dangers, is overseeing the ByteDance-Oracle talks.

“User data protection and assurances around how the company’s algorithms push content to U.S. users are thoughtful components of a substantive solution, but whether they can change political outcomes is a much more difficult question,” stated regulatory attorney John Kabealo, who’s not involved in the bargain talks.

ByteDance intends to assert that CFIUS’ approval two years ago of China Oceanwide Holdings Group’s purchase of US insurer Genworth Financial offers a precedent for its proposal with Oracle, the sources said.

TikTok’s user data is currently stored in Google owner Alphabet Inc’s cloud.

Earlier on Sunday, Microsoft said ByteDance had informed it that it would not be selling it TikTok’s US operations.

Walmart Inc, which had joined the Microsoft bid, said on Sunday it was still interested in investing, and that it would have further discussions with ByteDance and other interested parties.

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“We all know that any accepted bargain needs to meet all regulatory and domestic security issues,” Walmart said.

Jeffrey Towson, professor of investment at Peking University’s Guanghua school of management, said Oracle’s ownership of TikTok’s American operations with access but not ownership of ByteDance’s core technology mirrored how many Western companies operate in China.

“This is terrible news for Walmart over anybody else,” he added. “Combining TikTok’s amusement and consumer involvement with its e-commerce system has been its best shot at catching up with Amazon.”


As Sino-US relations deteriorate over trade, Hong Kong’s autonomy, cybersecurity and the spread of the novel coronavirus, TikTok has emerged as a flash point.

Trump signed two executive orders last month targeting TikTok and ByteDance. The first bans US companies from transacting with them and is due to come into effect on Sept. 20. The second requires ByteDance to sell TikTok by November the 12th.

Were Trump to agree to ByteDance’s proposed deal with Oracle, he would have to rescind his order calling specifically for TikTok to be divested.

As many as 40% of Americans back Trump’s threat to ban TikTok if it is not sold to a US buyer, a Reuters/Ipsos national poll found last month. Among Republicans – Trump’s party – 69% said they supported the order, though only 32% said they were familiar with the app.

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The White House has stepped up efforts to purge what it deems “untrusted” Chinese programs out of US electronic networks. Past TikTok, Trump has also issued an order prohibiting transactions with Tencent Holding’s messenger program WeChat.

Earlier this year, Chinese gambling firm Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd sold homosexual dating program Grindr, purchased in 2016, for $620 million following CFIUS ordered its divestment.

ByteDance obtained Shanghai-based video program – whose consumer base was mostly American – for $1 billion in 2017 without needing CFIUS acceptance, relaunching it since TikTok the subsequent calendar year. Reuters reported last year that CFIUS was exploring TikTok.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Echo Wang and Greg Roumeliotis in New York. Additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Melissa Fares in New York, Stephen Nellis in San Fransisco and Yingzhi Yang in Beijing. Writing by Joshua Franklin; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Christopher Cushing.

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