Walmart joins Microsoft in bid for video app TikTok

Technology
Kevin Mayer

FILE – In this July 13, 2015, file photo, then Disney chief strategy officer Kevin Mayer visits the company’s “accelerator” space in Glendale, Calif. TikTok CEO Mayer resigned Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020 amid U.S. pressure for its Chinese owner to sell the popular video app, which the White House says is a security risk. His resignation comes after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a ban on TikTok, unless parent company Bytedance sells its U.S. operations to an American company within 90 days. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Walmart is the latest company to want a piece of TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned video app that has come under fire from the Trump administration.

The world’s largest retailer made a joint bid with tech giant Microsoft to buy TikTok’s U.S. business, according to a person close to the deal who isn’t authorized to discuss the terms publicly.

It may seem like an unlikely combination, but Microsoft and Walmart are already business partners. Microsoft provides cloud computing services that help run the retailer’s stores and online shopping. The two companies signed a 5-year partnership in 2018, enabling them to join forces against a shared rival: online shopping giant Amazon.

Walmart said in a statement Thursday that a deal with Microsoft and TikTok could help it expand its advertising business and reach more shoppers.

TikTok, through its fun, goofy videos, has gained 100 million U.S. users. But the White House is pushing TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance to sell its U.S. business if it wants to keep operating in the country, citing security risks.

Microsoft has confirmed discussions with TikTok; other tech companies such as Oracle are also reportedly interested in a possible acquisition. While ByteDance hasn’t disclosed its asking price for TikTok, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that it is seeking roughly $30 billion for TikTok’s U.S. operations. The Journal reported that bidders so far haven’t been willing to meet that price. TikTok didn’t immediately reply to an emailed request for comment.

Over the past year, TikTok has tried to put distance between its app and its Chinese ownership. It installed former top Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its American CEO, but he resigned Thursday after just a few months on the job.

In a letter to employees, Mayer said that his decision to leave comes after the “political environment has sharply changed.”

ByteDance launched TikTok in 2017, then bought Musical.ly, a video service popular with teens in the U.S. and Europe, and combined the two. A twin service, Douyin, is available for Chinese users.

U.S. authorities are concerned that TikTok would turn over user data to Chinese authorities and that it censors content that would upset China. TikTok denies that it has shared user data with the Chinese government and would not do so if asked, nor censored videos at Chinese authorities’ request. It says it’s not a national security threat.

The sale situation has been unusual, with President Donald Trump demanding payment for the U.S. government for its part in orchestrating a deal, a step that experts say is unprecedented. The president said on Aug. 18 that Oracle was “a great company” that “could handle” buying TikTok. He declined to state a preference between Oracle and Microsoft as buyers.

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