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Microsoft reportedly considers buying all of TikTok

Whether or not it can get a deal done in time is another matter.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
August 6, 2020
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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 03: In this photo illustration, a mobile phone featuring the TikTok app is displayed next to the Microsoft logo on August 03, 2020 in New York City. Under threat of a U.S. ban on the popular social media app, it has been reported that Microsoft is considering taking over from Chinese firm ByteDance. (Photo Illustration by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Microsoft’s hoped-for TikTok deal could see it acquire much more than operations in the US and a few other countries. Financial Times sources claim Microsoft is pursuing plans to acquire all of TikTok’s worldwide business. ByteDance would still own TikTok’s equivalent app for China, Douyin. A global deal would eliminate the hassles of separating functions and ensure that TikTok users in one country could still use the app when visiting another.

On top of this, Microsoft has reportedly talked about adding an agreement that would give it one year to separate TikTok from ByteDance and address data security.

ByteDance and Microsoft have declined to comment.

It wouldn’t be surprising for Microsoft to at least try for such a deal. President Trump considers TikTok a threat as long as there’s Chinese ownership, and has suggested that it would be easier to buy the entire company than part of it. A purchase of all of TikTok could more explicitly satisfy Trump’s preferences and reduce the chances of a US ban that would cut off over 100 million users.

There’s no guarantee that a purchase of this size (or even the narrowly defined one from before) will go through. However, the bigger challenge may be to complete the separation from ByteDance on time. Two of FT’s sources said it would be challenging to meet the one-year deadline, and one suggested it could take up to eight years. If true, Microsoft could either face opposition to the initial deal or suffer blowback if TikTok still has Chinese ties a year later.

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