BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) – A potential shotgun wedding to Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) for TikTok’s U.S. operations provoked an outcry on Monday on Chinese social media as well as criticism from a prominent Chinese investor in TikTok owner ByteDance.
The U.S. tech giant formally declared its interest on Sunday after President Donald Trump, who has cited national security risks posed by the Chinese-owned short video app, reversed course on a planned ban and gave the two firms 45 days to come to a deal.
The proposed acquisition of parts of TikTok, which boasts 100 million U.S. users, would offer Microsoft a rare opportunity to become a major competitor to social media giants such as Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Snap Inc (SNAP.N).
Shares in Microsoft, which owns the business social media network LinkedIn and is also seeking to buy TikTok’s Canadian, Australian and New Zealand interests, rose nearly 3% in early trades on Monday.
ByteDance has not publicly confirmed the sale talks. But in an internal letter to staff on Monday seen by Reuters, the company’s founder and CEO Zhang Yiming said the firm had started talks with a tech company it did not identify to clear the way “for us to continue offering the TikTok app in the U.S.”
Clinching a deal that will satisfy all parties and potentially act as a lightning rod for U.S.-China relations will be a tall order.
People close to the situation have told Reuters that all of TikTok could be worth $50 billion, but the forced sale of the U.S. division and some other units alone will likely yield much less than that.