Oracle Enters Talks to Buy TikTok, Seeks to Edge out Front Runner Microsoft

Software company’s stock price jumped 4.5% on Tuesday following reports it wants to acquire the popular video app’s U.S. business

Last Updated: August 18, 2020 @ 7:31 AM

Software giant Oracle has entered talks to buy TikTok’s U.S. operations, as well as its assets in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, according to multiple reports.

The Financial Times was the first outlet to report the news on Monday, with CNBC following soon after. Oracle, led by co-founder Larry Ellison, is looking to top Microsoft when it comes to the bidding — expected to be somewhere in the $30-$50 billion range — and is working with several U.S. investors who already have a stake in TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance, according to FT. General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital are two of the firms working with Oracle on a potential deal, according to the same report.

Oracle’s stock jumped 4.5% in early-morning trading on Tuesday, hitting $56.39 per share.

President Trump last Friday ordered Bytedance to offload TikTok’s U.S. business within 90 days, pointing to “credible evidence” the popular video app poses a national security threat.  In Friday’s order, the president said Bytedance must submit a weekly report to The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States on its divestment efforts. Friday’s order also said Bytedance, in order to complete its sale, must show it has “destroyed all data” tied to American users.

Microsoft has been the frontrunner to this point when it comes to buying TikTok’s business in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  Oracle, on the other hand, is a bit of a left-field candidate, despite its formidable size; the company is worth $174 billion as of Tuesday morning. But Oracle lacks a video component to its business, and it doesn’t specialize in social media, either, making it a potential odd fit with TikTok.

Despite TikTok’s popularity, critics have grown increasingly concerned the app doubles as a data collection tool for China’s communist government. TikTok has denied ever sharing user data with Chinese authorities. But Stratechery’s Ben Thompson recently pointed out TikTok’s privacy policy explicitly says it “may share” user information “with a parent, subsidiary, or other affiliate of our corporate group,” which, based on how companies operate in China, means data can be sent to government authorities.

“It is important to note, this would be the case even if the privacy policy were not so honest. All Chinese Internet companies are compelled by the country’s National Intelligence Law to turn over any and all data that the government demands, and that power is not limited by China’s borders,” Thompson explained further. “Moreover, this requisition of data is not subject to warrants or courts, as is the case with U.S. government requests for data from Facebook or any other entity.”

Along these lines, President Trump has said the app will be jettisoned from the U.S., barring a sale to an American firm, due to national security concerns.

One Reddit user recently reverse-engineered TikTok to show what the app collects from its users — highlighting information Bytedance could be compelled to share with China’s government, based on the country’s laws. The app collects a wide range of information from users, according to the independent review, including IP and MAC addresses, GPS location, and other apps that are installed on a user’s phone, among other data points.