President Trump said the wildly popular TikTok app will be “out of business” in the US if it doesn’t reach a deal to sell its American operations by next month — and that the US government should get a cut of the deal.
The president’s comments to the media on Monday confirmed a previous blog post from Microsoft — which is currently in discussions with Beijing-based TikTok parent company ByteDance over a potential acquisition — which said it was looking to reach a deal “no later than September 15.”
Trump said that he does not mind if Microsoft or another company acquires the popular video app, so long as they are “a big company, a secure company, a very American company.”
Trump told reporters at the White House that he’s personally involved in brokering a potential deal with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
But Trump said Microsoft would have to pay the US government a large cut for facilitating the sale by forcing the Chinese owners to relinquish control.
The president spoke with Nadella on Sunday. “I suggested that he can go ahead, he can try,” Trump said. “We set a date, I set a date of around Sept. 15, at which point it is going to be out of business in the United States. But if somebody, whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else buys it, that’ll be interesting.”
Trump said he would prefer that Microsoft buy the full company rather than just a 30 percent stake.
“It’s probably easier to buy the whole thing than to buy 30 percent of it. Because they say how do you do 30 percent, who’s going to get the name? The name is odd. The brand is hot. And who’s going to get the name?” Trump said.
Trump said he felt the US government was entitled to a cut from the sale because of his role in bringing about the transaction.
“The United States should be reimbursed or should be paid a substantial amount of money. Because without the United States, they don’t have anything, at least having to do with the 30 percent,” Trump said. “Maybe a deal is going to be made. It’s a great asset. It’s a great asset, but it’s not a great asset in the United States unless they have the approval of the United States.”
He added that a portion of any sale should go directly to the US Treasury, “for making it possible for this deal to happen.”
“Right now they don’t have any rights unless we give it to them,” he said of TikTok. “It’ll close down on September 15 unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it or work out a deal so the Treasury of the United States gets a lot of money.”
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro suggested on Monday that Microsoft could divest its holdings in China if it were to buy TikTok.
“So the question is, is Microsoft going to be compromised?” Navarro said in an interview with CNN. “Maybe Microsoft could divest its Chinese holdings?”
The negotiations between the two companies are being overseen by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The government panel has the ability to block any agreement.
TikTok has been the subject of escalating scrutiny from US public officials over concerns the Chinese government could force ByteDance to give up valuable user information.
Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have suggested the app pipes data to the Chinese Communist Party. Tiktok denies it.
In 2017, China enacted the “National Intelligence Law,” which states that “Any organization or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work.”
“A US company should buy TikTok so everyone can keep using it and your data is safe,” Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter. “This is about privacy. With TikTok in China, it’s subject to Chinese Communist Party laws that may require handing over data to their government.”
The app’s Beijing-based parent company ByteDance will receive a raw deal for TikTok no matter how much it sells for, according to one of China’s biggest investors, because the app is still in an early stage of its growth.
“It absolutely makes no sense,” Fred Hu, chairman of Primavera Capital Group, said. “ByteDance is an innocent victim of the mad politics and mad geopolitics. It is a sad outcome for ByteDance, for entrepreneurial capitalism, and for the future of global commerce.”
British prime minister Boris Johnson’s office demurred on Monday, when asked about reports that ByteDance was preparing to shift its global headquarters to London, even as the US could ban its crown jewel.
“It would be a commercial decision, and I’m not aware that one has been taken,” the spokesperson said.
With Post wires.
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