TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company is reportedly in talks with the US government about a possible deal to avoid an outright sale of the popular app’s US operations.
ByteDance and top US officials are negotiating possible arrangements that would allow it to maintain some ownership stake in TikTok while still satisfying the US’s demand that China have no way to access user data, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
The discussions, which have reportedly been underway for months, are more urgent now that President Trump has put a strict deadline on a TikTok sale. Trump last month issued an executive order requiring ByteDance to sell TikTok to a “very American company” or see the app banned in the country.
Though a full sale is still an option, ByteDance is exploring a partial sale which would “likely involve some sort of restructuring of TikTok.”
A sale of the popular video app has appeared imminent for weeks since CEO Kevin Mayer quit his post after just three months when he was reportedly left out of sale negotiations with both Microsoft and Oracle — the leading contenders to buy the app.
Walmart had previously confirmed its interest in acquiring app alongside Microsoft, saying that it envisions TikTok providing it “with an important way for us to reach and serve omnichannel customers as well as grow our third-party marketplace and advertising business.”
But the negotiations came to a halt after the Chinese government threw roadblocks ahead of the US-ordered deal.
Beijing last month introduced export restrictions on artificial intelligence technology, seemingly including the type that TikTok uses to choose which videos to spool up to its users. That means TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, would have to obtain a license to export any restricted technologies to a foreign company.
A Treasury Department spokesperson told the Journal in a statement that it “is focused solely at this time on discussions associated with the sale of TikTok in accordance with the August 14 divestiture order signed by the President.”
Shares of Microsoft, which finished the day up 4.3 percent, were down 0.2 percent in extended trading following the report.