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Reuters August 2, 2020 0 Comments

 China’s ByteDance has agreed to divest the U.S. operations of TikTok completely in a bid to save a deal with the White House, after President Donald Trump said on Friday he had decided to ban the popular short-video app, two people familiar with the matter said on Saturday.

U.S. officials have said TikTok under its Chinese parent poses a national risk because of the personal data it handles. ByteDance’s concession will test whether Trump’s threat to ban TikTok is a negotiating tactic, or whether he is intent on cracking down on a social media app that boasts it has 100 million users in the United States.

Trump told reporters onboard Air Force One late on Friday that he would issue an order for TikTok to be banned in the United States as early as Saturday. “Not the deal that you have been hearing about, that they are going to buy and sell… We are not an M&A (mergers and acquisitions) country,” Trump said.

Late on Saturday, Peter Navarro, director of the White House’s office of trade and manufacturing policy, told Fox News that Trump would be taking action on TikTok on Sunday or Monday.

ByteDance was previously seeking to keep a minority stake in the U.S. business of TikTok, which the White House had rejected. Under the new proposed deal, ByteDance would exit completely and Microsoft Corp would take over TikTok in the United States, the sources said.

Some ByteDance investors that are based in the United States may be given the opportunity to take minority stakes in the business, the sources added. About 70% of ByteDance’s outside investors come from the United States.

“The administration has very serious national security concerns over TikTok. We continue to evaluate future policy,” the White House said in a statement, declining to comment on whether Trump would accept ByteDance’s concession. ByteDance in Beijing did not respond to a request for comment.

“We are here for the long run. Continue to share your voice here and let’s stand for TikTok,” TikTok U.S. general manager Vanessa Pappas said in a video published on the app on Saturday.

Under ByteDance’s new proposal, Microsoft, which also owns professional social media network LinkedIn, will be in charge of protecting all of TikTok’s U.S. user data, the sources said. The plan allows for a U.S. company other than Microsoft to take over TikTok in the United States, the sources added.

“What’s the right answer? Have an American company like Microsoft take over TikTok. Win-win. Keeps competition alive and data out of the hands of the Chinese Communist Party,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

As relations between the United States and China deteriorate over trade, Hong Kong’s autonomy, cyber security and the spread of the novel coronavirus, TikTok has emerged as a flashpoint in the dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

ByteDance has been considering a range of options for TikTok amid U.S. pressure to relinquish control of the app, which allows users to create short videos with special effects and has become wildly popular with U.S. teenagers.

ByteDance had received a proposal from some of its investors, including Sequoia and General Atlantic, to transfer majority ownership of TikTok to them, Reuters reported on Wednesday. The proposal valued TikTok at about $50 billion, but some ByteDance executives believe the app is worth more than that.

ByteDance acquired Shanghai-based video app in a $1 billion deal in 2017 and relaunched it as TikTok the following year. ByteDance did not seek approval for the acquisition from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews deals for potential national security risks. Reuters reported last year that CFIUS had opened an investigation into TikTok.


The United States has been increasingly scrutinizing app developers over the personal data they handle, especially if some of it involves U.S. military or intelligence personnel. Ordering the divestment of TikTok would not be the first time the White House has taken action over such concerns.

Earlier this year, Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd sold Grindr LLC, a popular gay dating app it bought in 2016, for $620 million after being ordered by CFIUS to divest.

In 2018, CFIUS forced China’s Ant Financial to scrap plans to buy MoneyGram International Inc over concerns about the safety of data that could identify U.S. citizens.

ByteDance was valued at as much as $140 billion earlier this year when one of its shareholders, Cheetah Mobile, sold a small stake in a private deal, Reuters has reported. The startup’s investors include Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.

The bulk of ByteDance’s revenue comes from advertising on apps under its Chinese operations including Douyin – a Chinese version of TikTok – and news aggregator app Jinri Toutiao, as well as video-streaming app Xigua and Pipixia, an app for jokes and humorous videos.

(Reporting by Echo Wang in New York and Alexandra Alper and David Shepardson in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Diane Craft and Daniel Wallis)

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Inside Meghan Markle and Prince Harrys Friendships With Adele, Ellen DeGeneres and More Stars (Exclusive)

Tropical Storm Isaias left New Jersey beaches with a case of sea lice Kroger and Fred Meyer are recalling cheese dips out of fears that salmonella-tainted onions were used to make them Inside Meghan Markle and Prince Harrys Friendships With Adele, Ellen DeGeneres and More Stars (Exclusive) © Samir Hussein/WireImage

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry seem to be fitting in with Hollywood's elite! ET spoke with Omid Scobie, royal reporter and author of Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, about who might be part of the couple's squad now that they have relocated to California.

There were recently reports that Meghan and Adele developed a friendship when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex temporarily moved into Tyler Perry's home in Los Angeles, which isn't too far from the "Hello" singer's residence. While Scobie cannot confirm whether the ladies have been hanging out, he tells ET that they do "know each other pretty well" and "have a history."

Both Adele and Meghan have been involved in helping the victims and their families of the devastating fire that engulfed the 24-story Grenfell Tower apartment building in London back in 2017, claiming the lives of 72 people.

"They first met when Meghan was supporting the Grenfell fire tragedy victims in London when she was working with the Hubb Community Kitchen to launch the cookbook," he says of the book, whose proceeds went to the Grenfell victims and their families. "Adele was actually a regular visitor through the Hubb Community Kitchen, and they really got to know each other through philanthropy. I'm sure we'll see them collaborating in the future."

As for whom else the couple, who are parents to 1-year-old son Archie, might be spending time with in California, Scobie says the quarantine mandates due to the coronavirus pandemic have made it a little difficult to make friends. 

"The move to California has presented unique challenges for Harry and Meghan. We're in the middle of a global pandemic, and them social distancing as parents, wanting to keep their child safe, has meant that they haven't been able to get out there and socialize as much as they wanted to," he explains.

However, now that Meghan, 39, and Harry, 35, have moved into their $14.6 million home in Montecito, they are a lot closer to some major celebrities.

"Of course, they're living very close to Oprah [Winfrey], a dear confidante of the couple and also a friend of [Meghan's mother,] Doria [Ragland]," Scobie says, noting that they have other famous friends in the area as well. "David Foster, the Canadian music producer and composer, has become a very close confidante [to Harry] and [become] someone he can really lean on for business advice and other matters. In fact, from sources, I hear they speak very regularly."

Meghan and Harry will also be living closer to Ellen DeGeneres and her wife, Portia de Rossi, whom they have spent time with in the past. 

"Ellen and Meghan go back longer than we think. Meghan actually first met her when she was deciding whether to rescue a dog. Ellen famously told her, 'Get it,'" Scobie tells ET. "Since then, they've developed a close friendship. We saw Portia and Ellen visit London. They visited Harry and Meghan at their home. ... They got to meet Archie for the first time, and they've also collaborated on some of their charitable work, too. Harry and Meghan supported Ellen in an elephant conservation initiative that she was involved in, and I think we'll see them come together with their work as well as their social life much more in the future."

Scobie also wouldn't be surprised if fans saw Harry and Meghan hanging out with Rob Lowe and Gwyneth Paltrow, as they both have homes in the Montecito area. He says this move will have the couple "much closer to many of their other friends within that circle."

For more on Harry and Meghan's new nine-bedroom, 19-bathroom home, check out the video below.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Relocate to New Home in Santa Barbara

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