By Joseph Pisani and Zen Soo
Walmart said Thursday it may join Microsoft to buy the U.S. business of TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned video app that has come under fire from the Trump administration.
Microsoft and TikTok declined to comment Thursday.
TikTok, through its fun, goofy videos, has gained hundreds of millions of users globally. But the U.S. is pushing its Chinese owner to sell the U.S. business if it wants to keep operating in the country.
Walmart said in a statement that a deal with Microsoft and TikTok could help it expand its advertising business and reach more shoppers.
The Trump administration is forcing a sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations because of its Chinese ownership and has threatened to ban the app, which TikTok says has 100 million U.S. users, citing national-security concerns. TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has sued to stop the ban, but not the sale order. Microsoft has confirmed discussions with TikTok; other tech companies such as Oracle are also reportedly interested in a possible acquisition.
TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, says it is willing to pursue a sale of its U.S. operations and has threatened legal action if it’s not treated fairly.
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, and says it is 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.
Over the past year, TikTok has tried to put distance between its app and its Chinese ownership. It installed a former top Disney executive as its American CEO — who left after just a few months — and also named two other Americans chief security officer and general counsel.
Microsoft and Walmart are already business partners, with Microsoft providing 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 shared rival Amazon.