With Deadline Set, Microsoft, ByteDance Still Have to Talk Price

Microsoft Corp. and ByteDance Ltd., with about six weeks to work out a final deal for the software giant to buy TikTok’s operations in the U.S., have yet to agree on most terms, including what could be contentious negotiations over price.

A Sept. 15 deadline was put in place at the insistence of the White House, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the talks between the companies and the Trump administration are private. Microsoft and ByteDance haven’t agreed on a price, terms, how Microsoft would pay for the unit, or how any technology sharing or transfer of assets of the video-sharing app would work, these people said.

After discussions between U.S. President Donald Trump and Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella this weekend, the two companies now believe they have the blessing of the American government to proceed to more formal and specific talks, the people said. U.S. officials haven’t commented on timing for the decision.

With Deadline Set, Microsoft, ByteDance Still Have to Talk Price

Talks began in July and involved Nadella, Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood and President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith, the people said. Erich Andersen, TikTok’s general counsel -- who spent 25 years at Microsoft, including working for Smith before joining TikTok this year -- was also involved in the conversations. At that point, ByteDance was facing an increasing likelihood of a ban on TikTok in the U.S. The Trump administration has threatened that step, and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. has been reviewing ByteDance’s 2017 purchase of Musical.ly, TikTok’s progenitor. Proposals by the company intended to assuage U.S. regulators’ concerns about TikTok had fallen short and the company was running out of time and options, one of the people said.

Negotiations may be complicated on one side by ByteDance investors eager for a big payout for the popular app, and on the other by Microsoft viewing itself as a white knight to TikTok as time dwindles to avoid a ban. The Trump administration could also throw a wrench into the process at any point.

Though Microsoft said in a blog post Sunday that it may invite other American investors to participate in the deal, the company doesn’t necessarily need additional backers, one of the people familiar said. The main point of the statement was to note that any investors must be located in the U.S., two people said.

Microsoft declined to comment beyond its statement. A spokeswoman for TikTok also declined to comment.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.