President Donald Trump says the federal government should get a ‘substantial portion’ of the sales price of the US arm of TikTok and says he is on board with Microsoft wanting to purchase the popular social media app.
Trump on Monday warned he will ban TikTok in the country if the US arm of the Chinese-owned video app isn’t purchased by September 15.
His comments on Monday came as Microsoft added $77 billion in market value less than 24 hours after confirming it was in talks to by the US portion of TikTok.
Shares in Microsoft jumped nearly four percent on Monday, bringing the company’s total market value to more than $1.6 trillion.
During a White House meeting, Trump said he didn’t mind if the US tech giant purchased the social media app after having a ‘great conversation’ with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Speaking of their conversation, Trump said: ‘I did say that if you buy it, whatever the price is that goes to whoever owns it, because I guess it’s China essentially… I said a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen.’
It was not clear how the government would receive part of the purchase price.
He added it ‘will close down on September 15 unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it and work out a deal, an appropriate deal so the Treasury… of the United States gets a lot of money.
He added that it might be easier if Microsoft buys all of TikTok rather than the 30 percent that would cover the US arm.
‘It’s a great asset but it’s not a great asset in the United States unless they have the approval of the United States,’ he said.
The Treasury Department has not yet commented about how a payment would work. It is highly unusual for the government to receive financial compensation from private companies. It only typically happens during a financial crisis, for example, the government received warrants from airlines earlier this year in exchange for aid amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump, who last week threatened to ban TikTok over national security concerns, reversed course on Sunday and gave the two companies 45 days to reach a deal.
He had said he was planning to ban TikTok, which is owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance, amid concerns that its ownership represents a national security risk because of the personal data it handles.
The proposed acquisition of TikTok, which boasts 100 millions American users, would offer Microsoft a rare opportunity to become a major competitor to social media giants such as Facebook Inc and Snap Inc. Microsoft also owns professional social media network LinkedIn.
The about-face for Trump came after a discussion between him and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
The Washington-based tech giant said on Sunday it would continue negotiations to acquire TikTok from ByteDance and that it aimed to reach a deal by September 15.
This is a deadline that was put to ByteDance and Microsoft by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which scrutinizes deals for potential national security risks, three sources told Reuters.
Trump changed his mind following pressure from some of his advisers and many in his Republican party, one of the sources said.
Banning TikTok would alienate many of its young users ahead of the US presidential election in November, and would likely trigger a wave of legal challenges.
Several prominent Republican lawmakers put out statements in the last two days urging Trump to back a sale of TikTok to Microsoft.
‘A win-win in the making,’ Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted in response to Trump’s new stance on Sunday.
The negotiations between ByteDance and Microsoft will be overseen by CFIUS, a US government panel that has the right to block any agreement, according to the sources.
Microsoft cautioned in its statement that there is no certainty a deal will be reached.
‘Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,’ Microsoft’s statement said.
ByteDance and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the Microsoft talks.
In a statement issued late on Sunday that did not mention TikTok, ByteDance said it faced ‘complex and unimaginable difficulties’ in going global.
As relations between the United States and China deteriorate over trade, Hong Kong’s autonomy, cyber security and the spread of the novel coronavirus, TikTok has emerged as a flashpoint in the dispute between the world’s two largest economies.
State-backed newspaper China Daily on Monday called ByteDance the victim of a ‘witch hunt’ from the United States, and said Washington had not provided evidence to support its allegation that TikTok posed a threat to US national security.
Under the proposed deal, Microsoft said it would take over TikTok’s operations in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
It said it would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.
Microsoft may invite other American investors to acquire minority stakes in TikTok, the company added. About 70 percent of the outside capital ByteDance has raised has come from the United States.
It is not clear how much Microsoft could pay for TikTok.
Reuters reported last week that ByteDance’s valuation expectations for the app exceeded $50 billion, although US pressure to divest it could lower that price tag.
A key issue in the negotiations will be separating TikTok’s technology from ByteDance’s infrastructure and access, to alleviate US concerns about the integrity of personal data. ByteDance owns a Chinese short video app called Douyin that was based on the same code used for TikTok.
One idea under consideration is to give Microsoft and ByteDance a transition period to develop technology for TikTok that will be completely separate from ByteDance, one of the sources said.
Microsoft said it did not intend to provide further updates until there was a definitive outcome in the negotiations.
The United States has been increasingly scrutinizing app developers over the personal data they handle, especially if some of it involves U.S. military or intelligence personnel. Ordering the divestment of TikTok would not be the first time the White House has taken action over such concerns.
Earlier this year, Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd sold Grindr LLC, a popular gay dating app it bought in 2016, for $620 million after being ordered by CFIUS to divest.
In 2018, CFIUS forced China’s Ant Financial to scrap plans to buy MoneyGram International Inc over concerns about the safety of data that could identify U.S. citizens.
ByteDance was valued at as much as $140 billion earlier this year when one of its shareholders, Cheetah Mobile, sold a small stake in a private deal, Reuters has reported. The start-up’s investors include Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.