Microsoft is in talks to buy social app TikTok

Microsoft TikTok

  • TikTok would complement Microsoft’s existing social media asset, LinkedIn.
  • President Donald Trump on Friday indicated that the U.S. could ban TikTok.

Microsoft has held talks to buy the TikTok video-sharing mobile app from Chinese owner ByteDance, one person close to the situation said. This person characterized the talks as having been underway for some time, rather than being brand new.

A TikTok acquisition could make Microsoft, a major provider of business software, more concentrated on consumer technology, which Microsoft has moved away from somewhat in recent years, by exiting the smartphone hardware, fitness hardware and e-book markets. Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $27 billion in 2016. In 2014, the company paid $2.5 billion to purchase game developer Mojang, whose Minecraft title is popular among younger users who also make up TikTok’s core audience in the U.S.

Chinese company ByteDance launched TikTok in 2017. The app has grown more popular during the coronavirus pandemic, with 2 billion downloads in April, according to Sensor Tower. Competitors include Facebook and Snap.

ByteDance investors seeking to take over TikTok have valued it at $50 billion, Reuters reported earlier this week.

The rise of TikTok in the U.S. has prompted the Trump Administration to scrutinize the app. Earlier this week Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said it was being reviewed by his department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.

“We’re looking at TikTok, we may be banning TikTok, we may be doing some other things, there’s a couple of options but a lot of things are happening, we’ll see what happens,” President Donald Trump said on the White House’s South Lawn on Friday. “We are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok.”

Microsoft declined to comment on the talks, which were first reported by Fox Business Network.

“While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok,” TikTok said in a statement Friday.

Microsoft shares closed up less than 1% on Friday.

— CNBC’s Jessica Bursztynsky, Steve Kopack and Alex Sherman contributed to this report.

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