Microsoft Corp on Sunday announced that it would continue talks to acquire the US operations of popular video-sharing app TikTok, after meeting with US President Donald Trump, who seemingly backed off his earlier threats to ban the Chinese-owned platform in the US.
“Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J. Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States,” the company said in a statement, acknowledging the “importance of addressing the president’s concerns” over national security.
Microsoft added that it would continue negotiations with ByteDance Ltd (字節跳動), TikTok’s Chinese parent company, with the intention of “completing these discussions no later than September 15.”
The statement came after Trump on Friday said that he would ban the app, which is especially popular with young audiences who create and watch its short-form videos, and has an estimated 1 billion users worldwide.
TikTok should be sold or blocked in the US, US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin told ABC earlier on Sunday, while US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Fox News that the president would “take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party.”
TikTok denies it could be a tool for Chinese intelligence, with its US general manager, Vanessa Pappas, saying on Saturday: “We’re not planning on going anywhere.”
In its statement, Microsoft said it plans to “build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy and digital safety protections.”
Buying TikTok would give Microsoft a chance to break into the social networking market.
The IT group owns the professional networking platform LinkedIn, and Teams, an internal messaging service for companies.
Pappas on Saturday promised to create 10,000 US jobs at TikTok over the next three years, in addition to the 1,500 current employees.
“Don’t fall for this,” said US Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro, a fierce China critic and a main architect of the US’ trade dispute with Beijing.
“China has hired a whole bunch of American lobbyists. They put a puppet CEO in charge of that company,” he told Fox News, referring to former Disney executive Kevin Mayer, who became the chief executive officer of TikTok in May.
ByteDance chief executive officer Zhang Yiming (張一鳴) told employees in a letter that the company is exploring all possibilities and working around the clock to resolve its intensifying confrontation with US authorities.
Beijing-based ByteDance has come under pressure from the White House and US lawmakers to sell off its US TikTok operations and now has a 45-day deadline on negotiations with Microsoft over such a deal.
Acknowledging that ByteDance is in negotiations with another tech firm, without naming Microsoft directly, Zhang wrote that the company is still engaged in internal discussions and no final decisions have been made.
“The attention of the outside world and rumors around TikTok might last for a while,” Zhang said.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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