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A New Twist In The TikTok Saga

TikTok

Late on Sunday, Microsoft dropped out of negotiations with Chinese-company Bytedance to purchase Tik-Tok, after which it was reported that Oracle would assume management of TikTok's US user data. 

That is if TikTok is still for sale at all ...

Microsoft issued a statement confirming that ByteDance did not accept its offer. 

“ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft,” the company said without elaborating why the bid was rejected.

From the beginning of this debacle, Microsoft (in partnership with Walmart) was the main contender for purchasing TikTok in a deal that could be worth up to $30 billion. Another joint bid by Softbank and Alphabet fell apart in the early stages.

On Monday morning, Oracle confirmed its involvement, saying it “will serve as the trusted technology provider” for TikTok.

Following the news on the Oracle, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC that the administration would review the deal this week and send recommendations to President Trump, who had previously said he thought Oracle was best placed to seal the TikTok deal.

"I think Oracle is a great company, and I think its owner is a tremendous guy…He's a tremendous person. I think that Oracle would be certainly somebody that could handle it."

Oracle’s CEO Safra Catz was part of Trump’s transition team. The company’s co-founder and chairman, Larry Ellison, who is ranked the world's fifth-richest person with a net worth over $60 billion, has been openly supportive of Trump and held a fundraiser for him in February.

But Presidential approval won’t be a final deal sealer.   

Two weeks ago, the Chinese government passed a new rule that would force ByteDance to obtain a license from the government to proceed with TikTok's sale to an American company. 

The state’s Ministry of Commerce added some two dozen new categories of technology that require its approval before they can be exported. They reportedly include artificial-intelligence tech that plays a key role for TikTok.

Last Friday, Reuters reported that Chinese officials would rather see TikTok shut down in the US than have parent company ByteDance forced to sell American operators.

Earlier today, Chinese media reported that Bytedance will not sell its US operations outright, nor will it share TikTok's source code. While the media did not elaborate, Oracle’s close connections with US intelligence would likely have been a major deal breaker. 

In the latest, NPR reported that the deal might end up not be structured as a sale but as some sort of “partnership” between Oracle and ByteDance. That, too, would still require approval by both governments. 

In late July, President Trump threatened to ban the app from operating in the US citing national security concerns. However, he was reportedly urged by his advisors not to do so due to the app’s popularity.

In August, President Trump issued an executive order that would ban TikTok in the US unless the operations are sold to another company by Sept. 20th.

 The executive order cites national security concerns that the Chinese government could use data gathered from TikTok to "track the locations of federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail and conduct corporate espionage."  

Experts said that at the time that due to the complicity of the sale, it would be hard to meet the deadline, though Trump said the deadline won’t be extended. “It'll either be closed up or they'll sell it," he told reporters.

By Michael Kern for Safehaven.com

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