Sources say that ByteDance has dropped the sale of TikTok

ByteDance picks Oracle as partner - sources

ByteDance has abandoned the sale of TikTok in the US to pursue a partnership with Oracle that it hopes will spare it a US ban while appeasing China, people familiar with the matter told Reuters. 

The Chinese firm had been in talks to divest the business to Oracle or a consortium led by Microsoft after US President Donald Trump ordered the sale last month and threatened to shut down the short-video app in the country. 

While TikTok is best known for dancing videos that go viral among teenagers, US officials are concerned user information could be passed to China's communist government. 

TikTok, which has as many as 100 million US users, has said it would never share such data with Chinese authorities. 

Sale negotiations were upended when China updated its export control rules last month, giving it a say over the transfer of TikTok's algorithm to a foreign buyer. 

Reuters reported last week that China would rather see TikTok shut down in the US than allow a forced sale. 

China's state-run English television channel CGTN today cited sources as saying ByteDance will not sell TikTok's US operations to Oracle or Microsoft, and will not give the source code for the platform to any US firm. 

Under Bytedance's latest proposal, Oracle will be the firm's technology partner and assume management of TikTok's US user data, sources told Reuters on Sunday. 

Oracle is also negotiating taking a stake in TikTok's US operations, they said. 

The data is currently stored in Alphabet's cloud. 

Some of ByteDance's top investors, including General Atlantic and Sequoia, will also be given minority stakes in those operations, one of the people said. 

It is unclear whether Trump, who wants a US technology firm to own most of TikTok in the US, will approve the deal.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews deals for national security risk, is overseeing the ByteDance-Oracle talks. 

ByteDance plans to argue that CFIUS' approval two years ago of China Oceanwide Holdings Group's purchase of US insurer Genworth Financial offers a precedent for its proposal with Oracle, the sources said. 

In that deal, China Oceanwide agreed to use a US-based, third-party service to manage Genworth's US policyholder data. ByteDance will argue a similar arrangement with Oracle can safeguard TikTok's U.S. user data, the sources said. 

Oracle's chairman Larry Ellison is one of the tech world's few Trump supporters. His firm has significant technological prowess in handling and safeguarding data, but no social media experience as its clientele comprises companies, rather than consumers.
Larry Ellison

Peking University professor of investment Jeffrey Towson said Oracle's ownership of TikTok's US operations with access but not ownership of ByteDance's core technology mirrored how many Western companies operate in China. 

Earlier yesterday, Microsoft said ByteDance had informed it that it would not be selling it TikTok's US operations. 

Walmart, which had joined Microsoft's bid, said it was still interested in investing, and that it would talk further with ByteDance and other parties. 

As Sino-US relations deteriorate over trade, Hong Kong's autonomy, cybersecurity and the spread of the coronavirus, TikTok has emerged as a flashpoint. 

Trump signed two executive orders last month targeting TikTok and ByteDance.

The first, effective September 20, bans US companies from transacting with them. The second requires ByteDance to sell TikTok by November 12. 

Were Trump to agree to ByteDance's proposed Oracle deal, he would have to rescind his order calling specifically for divestment. 

As many as 40% of Americans back Trump's threat to ban TikTok if it is not sold to a US buyer, a Reuters/Ipsos national poll found last month. 

The White House has stepped up efforts to purge what it deems "untrusted" Chinese apps from US digital networks. 

Beyond TikTok, Trump has also issued an order prohibiting transactions with Tencent Holding's messenger app WeChat. 

Earlier this year, Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech sold dating app Grindr, bought in 2016, for $620m after CFIUS ordered its divestment. 

ByteDance acquired Shanghai-based video app - whose user base was largely American - for $1 billion in 2017 without seeking CFIUS approval, relaunching it as TikTok the following year. 

Reuters reported last year that CFIUS was investigating TikTok.