WASHINGTON—Microsoft Corp. said it is committed to trying to acquire the U.S. operations of the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok on terms required by the White House, after chief executive Satya Nadella spoke by phone with U.S. President Donald Trump about the possible deal.
Microsoft, in a blog post Sunday, said it would move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok parent Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., over a potential purchase and aims to complete the negotiations by Sept. 15. The statement, which was the software giant’s first confirmation it was interested in acquiring TikTok’s U.S. business, said the deal talks also entail the app’s service in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
U.S. officials have expressed concerns that TikTok could pass on the data it collects from Americans to China’s authoritarian government. TikTok has said it would never do so. Officials also worry that the app could be used to spread Chinese propaganda and that the platform’s moderators are censoring content to appease Beijing. The company has said it is increasingly adapting its content policies to be tailored to local markets where it operates, including the U.S., and that Beijing doesn’t dictate policies for those.
The Wall Street Journal and other outlets Friday reported Microsoft’s interests in the deal. Soon after, Trump said he opposed a transaction and that he preferred to ban the app, temporarily pausing the talks between Microsoft and ByteDance and throwing uncertainty over the discussions.
“Microsoft appreciates the U.S. Government’s and President Trump’s personal involvement as it continues to develop strong security protections for the country,” the company said in its statement. The Redmond, Wash.-based company said it would continue the dialogue with the U.S. government, including the president, as talks progress.
It added that it would ensure the data of American TikTok users would be transferred to the U.S. where it would remain. Microsoft said that TikTok, under its ownership, would build on the popular user experience while adding privacy and security protections.
Microsoft said it might open the purchase to other American investors to take a minority stake.
The company also warned that discussions were preliminary and that there was no certainty that a transaction would be completed.
Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been critical of TikTok, was among several Republican lawmakers to come out in favour of a Microsoft deal on Sunday.
“I was among the first to warn of danger posed by TikTok last year,” he tweeted.
“As I have shared with POTUS & @WhiteHouse if the company & data can be purchased & secured by a trusted U.S. company that would be a positive & acceptable outcome.”
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