President Donald Trump only agreed to allow Microsoft Corp to negotiate the acquisition of popular short-video app TikTok if it could secure a deal in 45 days, three people familiar with the matter said on Sunday.
The move represents an about-face for Trump and prompted the U.S. tech giant to declare its interest in the blockbuster social media deal that could further inflame U.S.-China relations. Trump said on Friday he was planning to ban TikTok amid concerns that its Chinese ownership represents a national security risk because of the personal data it handles.
The proposed acquisition of TikTok, which boasts 100 millions U.S. users, would offer Microsoft a rare opportunity to become a major competitor to social media giants such as Facebook Inc and Snap Inc. Microsoft also owns professional social media network LinkedIn.
Trump had dismissed the idea of a sale to Microsoft on Friday. But following a discussion between Trump and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, the Redwood, Washington-based company said in a statement on Sunday that it would continue negotiations to acquire TikTok from ByteDance, and that it aimed to reach a deal by Sept. 15.
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This is a deadline that was put to ByteDance and Microsoft by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which scrutinizes deals for potential national security risks, according to the sources.
Trump changed his mind following pressure from some of his advisers and many in his Republican party, one of the sources said. Banning TikTok would alienate many of its young users ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, and would likely trigger a wave of legal challenges. Several prominent Republican lawmakers put out statements in the last two days urging Trump to back a sale of TikTok to Microsoft.
“A win-win in the making,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted in response to Trump’s new stance on Sunday.
The negotiations between ByteDance and Microsoft will be overseen by CFIUS, a U.S. government panel that has the right to block any agreement, according to the sources, who requested anonymity ahead of a White House announcement. Microsoft cautioned in its statement that there is no certainty a deal will be reached.