As U.S. TikTok Ban Nears, Here’s What We Know About a Deal
With just days to go until President Donald Trump’s ban on TikTok in the U.S. comes into effect, the race is on for the video-sharing app’s Chinese owner, ByteDance Ltd., to win approval for its plan to avoid a shutdown.
Technology giantOracle Corp. has emerged as the Beijing-based company’s chosen partner for a deal, beating outMicrosoft Corp. But instead of an outright sale as ordered by Trump, the deal on the table affords Oracle only a minority stake in a company that will continue to be controlled by ByteDance. There’s still much to be decided before the Sept. 20 deadline. Here’s a rundown what we know so far, what’s still up in the air and what could happen next.
What We Know
- Who’s in and who’s out
- Oracleconfirmed in a brief statement Monday that it’s part of the proposal ByteDance has submitted to the U.S. Treasury Department to resolve the row over TikTok. The statement was light on details, but referred to Oracle as the company’s “trusted technology provider.” Microsoft, the previous presumed frontrunner, said its bid had beenrejected.
- Instead of an outright sale, the transaction is being seen as a corporate restructuring. People familiar with the proposal havesaid Oracle would make an investment in TikTok, alongside existing ByteDance shareholders includingGeneral Atlantic, Sequoia Capital andCoatue Capital.
- Oracle would be responsible for storing users’ data in the U.S.
- U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hasreferred to the new entity that would come out of the Oracle deal as “TikTok Global.” He said the business would have its headquarters in the U.S. and create 20,000 jobs.
- Oracle will try to use the promise of jobs as a way to win Trump’s approval, according to people familiar with the matter.
- The presidentsaid Tuesday that a deal is “very close.” He added that Oracle founder Larry Ellison has been “really a terrific guy for a long time,” a show of potential support for the deal.
- The president has repeatedly insisted that any deal would have to include asubstantial payment to the U.S. But the current outlines of the deal don’t include any such payment.
- A group of Republican senatorssent a letter to the Trump administration Wednesday outlining their concerns that the deal would allow ByteDance to retain majority control.
What We Don’t Know
- The exact terms of the deal
- While Oracle and some existing shareholders are likely to invest, it’s unclear how much of the new TikTok entity they would own or how it would be valued.Walmart Inc.’s role is also unknown: the retail giant hadteamed up with Microsoft as part of that company’s proposal, but has since said that itremains in talks with ByteDance and other interested parties.
- Though details are light, based on what’s been revealed so far about the deal, national security experts have told Bloomberg News that the arrangement doesn’t satisfy concerns laid out by the Trump administration in executive orders and public statements. However, even if security officials recommend Trump block the deal, the president has the final say and can overrule their recommendation.
- While Trump initially said he wanted a deal by Sept. 15, the ban on TikTok’s U.S. operations that he signed last month in a bid to force a salerequires the company to act by Sept. 20. Trumpindicated last week that the deadline wouldn’t be extended. A separate decision by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS,requires a sale by mid-November.
- One of the big questions is what will happen to the source code underpinning the social media platform in a restructuring. ByteDance hasdecided it won’t sell or transfer the algorithm, according to the South China Morning Post, but the company’s U.S.-based technology team would be free to develop a new algorithm.
- The Chinese government will also have to approve ByteDance’s plans under new restrictions Beijing imposed on the export of artificial intelligence technologies, Bloomberg Newsreported earlier. ByteDance has said it will “strictly comply with” the new regulations.
- A U.S. national-security panel reviewed the bid Tuesday afternoon, but didn’t make a recommendation that the president approve or reject the deal, Bloomberg News hasreported. Mnuchin, who oversees CFIUS, has promised to give Trump the panel’s recommendation this week.
- The Commerce Department will also have to take a look at the deal, as the U.S. is running a two-track national security review.
— With assistance by Elizabeth Fournier, Saleha Mohsin, Shelly Banjo, David McLaughlin, Zheping Huang, Steven Yang, Dina Bass, Kurt Wagner, Naomi Nix, Vlad Savov, Katie Roof, Josh Wingrove, Jordan Fabian, Jennifer Jacobs, Nico Grant, Justin Sink, Pavel Alpeyev, and Matthew Boyle
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