TikTok ap­pears set to ward off ban with sale

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - BUSINESS - By Ray­mond Zhong Ray­mond Zhong is a New York Times writer.

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 Satur­day.

Pres­i­dent Trump had told re­porters Fri­day that he is con­sid­er­ing 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 ini­tially re­ported by Reuters.

It was not clear whether the di­vest­ment would be a suf­fi­cient re­sponse. 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 pro­posed di­vest­ment would not nec­es­sar­ily af­fect the com­pany’s op­er­a­tions out­side the U.S. TikTok has said it has 100 mil­lion users in the U.S.

“While we do not com­ment on ru­mors or spec­u­la­tion, we are con­fi­dent in the long­term suc­cess of TikTok,” a com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tive said Satur­day.

Pres­sure on TikTok has been build­ing for months. Last fall, the Com­mit­tee on For­eign In­vest­ment in the United States be­gan ex­am­in­ing ByteDance’s 2017 pur­chase of Mu­si­cal.ly, a video app that was later merged into TikTok. Law­mak­ers and White House of­fi­cials have also ex­pressed con­cerns that TikTok data could be made avail­able to the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, which the com­pany has re­peat­edly de­nied.

In May, TikTok hired top Dis­ney ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Mayer to be CEO as part of an ef­fort to em­pha­size its au­ton­omy within ByteDance, which is head­quar­tered in Bei­jing.

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