TikTok’s Chinese owner ‘agrees to divest US stake’

China’s ByteDance has reportedly agreed to divest the US operations of TikTok completely in a bid to save a deal with the White House.

The move comes after President Donald Trump said on Friday he had decided to ban the popular short-video app, two people familiar with the matter said on Saturday.

Under the new proposed deal, ByteDance would exit completely and Microsoft would take over TikTok in the United States, the sources said.

US officials have said TikTok under its Chinese parent poses a national risk because of the personal data it handles.

ByteDance’s concession will test whether Mr Trump’s threat to ban TikTok is a negotiating tactic, or whether he is intent on cracking down on a social media app that boasts it has 100 million users in the United States.

Mr Trump told reporters onboard Air Force One late on Friday that he would issue an order for TikTok to be banned in the United States as early as Saturday. “Not the deal that you have been hearing about, that they are going to buy and sell . . . We are not an M&A (mergers and acquisitions) country,” Trump said.

Late on Saturday, Peter Navarro, director of the White House’s office of trade and manufacturing policy, told Fox News that Mr Trump would be taking action on TikTok on Sunday or Monday.

ByteDance was previously seeking to keep a minority stake in the US business of TikTok, which the White House had rejected.

“The administration has very serious national security concerns over TikTok. We continue to evaluate future policy,” the White House said in a statement, declining to comment on whether Mr Trump would accept ByteDance’s concession. ByteDance in Beijing did not respond to a request for comment.

“We are here for the long run. Continue to share your voice here and let’s stand for TikTok,” TikTok U.S. general manager Vanessa Pappas said in a video published on the app on Saturday.

Under ByteDance’s new proposal, Microsoft, which also owns professional social media network LinkedIn, will be in charge of protecting all of TikTok’s US user data, the sources said. The plan allows for a US company other than Microsoft to take over TikTok in the United States, the sources added. – Reuters

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