ByteDance rejects Microsoft's bid for TikTok, Oracle poised to take stake

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Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., pauses during a Bloomberg event on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.

Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft said Sunday that the Chinese owner of social video app TikTok had chosen not to sell it TikTok’s U.S. assets. ByteDance is now in exclusive negotiations with Oracle over a stake in TikTok, sources close to the situation said. 

The developments come two days before a deadline President Trump has insisted on over a deal. Trump has said TikTok would be banned in the U.S. if no deal is made by Sept. 15. 

“ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft,” Microsoft said in a blog post. “We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests. To do this, we would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation, and we made these principles clear in our August statement. We look forward to seeing how the service evolves in these important areas.”

An Oracle representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Thursday, following reports about Oracle’s interest in TikTok, Oracle CEO Safra Catz began the company’s quarterly earnings call with analysts by saying, “Before I start, I want to make sure you understand that we will be making no comments regarding the press reports about TikTok. So there’s no need to ask.”

Microsoft said on Aug. 2 that it was in talks to buy TikTok in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Weeks later Walmart said it believed working with Microsoft on a possible TikTok deal could be positive for TikTok users and for regulators. A TikTok spokesperson denied that it was in talks to sell its U.S. branch to a competing video-sharing app, Triller. Bloomberg had reported that Triller was working on a bid in collaboration with Centricus Asset Management.

Microsoft’s failure to buy TikTok amounts to a symbolic loss for Satya Nadella, who took over Microsoft from Steve Ballmer in 2014. Under Ballmer, Microsoft had sought to buy Yahoo in 2008 but ultimately withdrew the bid after Yahoo rejected the offer, even as Microsoft increased the amount it was willing to pay.

TikTok generates revenue through advertisements it shows to people scrolling through videos displayed in the app. Microsoft has its own advertising business, including the Bing search engine. Nadella worked on advertising, among other areas, before he became CEO.

— CNBC’s Alex Sherman contributed to this report.

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