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Oracle enters race to buy TikTok’s U.S. operations

TikTok

Oracle has entered the race to acquire TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned short-video app that President Trump has vowed to shut down unless it is taken over by a U.S. company by mid-November, people briefed on the matter say.

The tech company co-founded by Larry Ellison has held preliminary talks with TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, and is seriously considering purchasing the app’s operations in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the people said. Oracle is working with a group of U.S. investors who already own a stake in ByteDance, including General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital.

Microsoft has been the lead contender to buy TikTok since it publicly said in early August that it had held discussions to explore a purchase of the app’s U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand businesses.

Microsoft has also seriously considered a bid to take over TikTok’s global operations beyond those countries, people briefed on the company’s thinking have said. The Redmond, Wash.-based company is particularly interested in buying TikTok in Europe and India, where the video app was banned by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a deadly border clash between Chinese and Indian troops in the Himalayas.

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ByteDance is opposed to selling any assets beyond those in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, said a person close to the company.

The entry of Oracle into the race has provided ByteDance with a credible alternative to Microsoft’s offer, said one person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The lawsuit comes after President Trump issued an executive order that employees fear could stop their paychecks from coming in.

Twitter also held early-stage talks with TikTok, but there were serious concerns about the U.S. social media group’s ability to finance the deal, sources briefed on the matter said.

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Oracle’s approach comes after Trump last week ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok’s U.S. operations within 90 days, following a recommendation from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., a government panel that vets foreign transactions.

The presidential order said the U.S. had “credible evidence” that ByteDance was using TikTok, which reached 2 billion downloads worldwide in 2020, to breach U.S. security. ByteDance has repeatedly denied any allegations of improper data-sharing.

The U.S. has been engaged in a trade war with China since Trump took office.

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Ellison, one of the world’s richest people, is one of the few in Silicon Valley who has openly supported Trump. In February, the 76-year-old billionaire entrepreneur held a fundraiser for Trump at his estate in Coachella Valley.

It is unclear whether the White House is more supportive of Oracle’s approach than of Microsoft’s.

Any deal would face a long list of challenges, including separating the back-end technology of TikTok from ByteDance. It is also unclear how much TikTok’s U.S. or global operations would fetch in a sale.

Oracle could not immediately be reached for comment. ByteDance, General Atlantic and Sequoia declined to comment.

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