China’s ByteDance Prepared to Divest 100% of TikTok in U.S.

China’s ByteDance Ltd. is prepared to sell 100% of TikTok’s U.S. operations as a way to head off a proposed ban on the music-video app by President Donald Trump, said two people with knowledge of the situation.

Details of the proposed transaction weren’t immediately known after the parties worked through the night to find an acceptable resolution. The White House had no immediate comment.

Trump said late Friday he plans to ban TikTok from the U.S. following concerns about data collection by the popular app, and suggested a move could come as soon as Saturday.

ByteDance is now waiting on the administration to approve Microsoft Corp.’s potential acquisition of TikTok, said one person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

A deal would give the software company a popular social-media service and relieve U.S. government pressure on the Chinese owner of the video-sharing app -- although Trump seemed to throw cold water on the plan in his remarks on Friday.

Microsoft’s move is “not the deal that you have been hearing about, that they are going to buy and sell, and this and that. And Microsoft and another one. We’re not an M&A company,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One.

Not Going Away

On Saturday, Vanessa Pappas, TikTok’s U.S. general manager, released a video statement thanking users for their support and saying the company “isn’t going anywhere.”

“We’re here for the long run,” Pappas said, noting that the company plans to add 10,000 U.S. jobs to its 1,500 workforce over the next three years. She also said TikTok is “building the safest app because we know it’s the right thing to do.”

In a statement on Saturday, a TikTok spokesperson pushed back on suggestions it’s harvesting data from U.S. users.

“TikTok U.S. user data is stored in the U.S., with strict controls on employee access. TikTok’s biggest investors come from the U.S.,” the spokesperson said. “We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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