Could TikTok end up in the clutches of Silicon Valley billionaire Larry Ellison?
Software giant Oracle is in discussions with ByteDance to acquire popular social-video app TikTok, according to multiple reports. The Chinese internet company faces a looming mid-November deadline to divest TikTok’s U.S. assets under a Trump administration national-security directive.
Oracle is mulling an acquisition of TikTok’s U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand operations, as first reported by the Financial Times. Oracle is collaborating on the potential bid with U.S.-based investors in ByteDance, including VC firms General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital, per the FT report.
Oracle’s reported interest in snapping up TikTok comes after Microsoft earlier this month said it was in talks to buy the lip-syncing video app. Microsoft said it expected to conclude M&A negotiations by Sept. 15 and that CEO Satya Nadella has discussed the proposed deal with Trump.
Oracle chairman and cofounder Larry Ellison has expressed support for President Trump, although the FT report noted that it is unclear whether that would sway the White House’s support one way or the other for an Oracle purchase of TikTok. TikTok and Oracle have declined to comment.
TikTok, which claims it has more than 100 million U.S. users, has slammed Trump’s executive order that would effectively ban the app in the United States unless it finds an American-based buyer. So far TikTok, headed by CEO Kevin Mayer, a former Disney exec, has not taken any legal action to fight the Trump administration’s orders.
“We’re committed to continuing to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform for many years to come,” TikTok said in a statement last Friday.
Twitter also has been reported to be interested in TikTok, although the social network’s bid for the app is seen as a long shot given questions about how Twitter would swing financing for such a transaction. TikTok has been valued at about $50 billion by a group of U.S.-based ByteDance investors, Reuters reported.
Trump, in an executive order issued Aug. 14, set a 90-day deadline for Beijing-based ByteDance to fully divest the U.S. assets of TikTok. The order officially forces the unwinding of ByteDance’s 2017 acquisition of Muiscal.ly, which ByteDance migrated to TikTok the following year.
The Trump action to force ByteDance’s sale of TikTok comes as part of his administration’s escalating confrontation with China on trade issues. In the Aug. 14 executive order, the president cited “credible evidence” that ByteDance “might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States” but didn’t detail what those are. U.S. government officials fear that the Chinese government could force ByteDance to turn over data on American users; TikTok has said it has not provided data on U.S. users to China’s government and would refuse to if asked.
Trump has repeatedly asserted that the U.S. government deserves a cut of the proceeds of a TikTok sale, but experts say there’s no legal precedent for that.