TikTok Sale: ByteDance Rejects Microsoft Bid

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ByteDance has rejected Microsoft’s bid for the U.S. operations of TikTok, a move that leaves Oracle as the likely partner for a deal to keep the popular social media app operating amid increased tensions between the U.S. and China.

“We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests,” Microsoft wrote in a statement on its corporate blog. “To do this, we would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation, and we made these principles clear in our August statement. We look forward to seeing how the service evolves in these important areas.”

Microsoft was seen as the favorite to move forward in negotiations with ByteDance given its deep pockets, which would have helped it address the security concerns that led President Donald Trump to require the business to be sold if it wanted to continue to operate in the U.S. Walmart had planned to team up with Microsoft on the bid but was not mentioned in the company’s statement.

As the clock counts down to ByteDance’s deadline to strike a deal that will appease Trump, several outlets are reporting that Beijing-based tech company is moving forward with Oracle as its preferred partner. According to the Wall Street Journal, the cloud services business will not outright buy TikTok’s U.S. business. Instead, it will be announced as a “trusted tech partner.”

Representatives for TikTok and Oracle did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The news follows an Aug. 6 executive order from Trump that called for TikTok to be banned in the U.S. if ByteDance didn’t sell its American operations. Trump has cited national security concerns as the reason for the ban, arguing that ByteDance could give the Chinese government access to data from its U.S. users. The company was given a mid-September deadline to divest of the business.

TikTok has fought those claims, saying that it stores American user data on serves based out of the U.S. and Singapore. The company also has sued Trump, arguing in its complaint that the ban is “a pretext for furthering the President’s broader campaign of anti-China rhetoric in the run-up to the U.S. election.”

China complicated ByteDance’s ability to strike a deal when, in late August, it issued new export rules that would prevent TikTok from selling the technology that powers the algorithm behind its addictive “For You” feed, which learns about user behavior over time in order to serve up the most relevant videos.

TikTok first came to the U.S. in August 2018 after ByteDance acquired competitor Musical.ly and merged the two apps. Today, the social video app has 100 million monthly active users in the U.S. and has minted stars out of young creators including Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae. The app has also become a powerful platform for debuting new music and helped popularize Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.”

The app’s fate in the U.S. is being determined without the company’s newly appointed American CEO. Disney veteran Kevin Mayer, who accepted a job running TikTok in late May, announced his resignation on Aug. 26. Vanessa Pappas, general manager of TikTok in North America, Australia and New Zealand, is serving as the company’s interim CEO.

More to come.

This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.

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