What started with the ban on TikTok could end with TikTok IPO in the US.
TikTok is leaving no stone unturned, no option unexplored in its bid to overturn the possibility of being banned in the United States.
ByteDance is planning an initial public offering of TikTok Global (the proposed new company for the popular short-video app), should the government in the United States give its approval to the plan.
Only last month, President Trump had ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok amid increasing concerns that the personal data of millions of TikTok users in the US is at risk of falling into China’s Communist Party’s hand. The leadership at the US also remains unwavering in its decision of opposing ByteDance’s majority ownership of TikTok, as was again stressed by Mr.Trump.
As a result, ByteDance is frantically racing to string an agreement that will head off the ban as President Trump has threatened to pull the plug as early as next week.
However, all’s not bleak, as people close to the matter have reportedly informed Reuters that the White House and ByteDance have agreed to a term sheet on some aspects of a deal, subject to President Trump’s consideration.
According to some of the available details, the new company, dubbed as TikTok Global, would need to have a majority of American directors, including a chief executive who is US citizen, along with a security expert to monitor ongoing activities closely.
With Microsoft’s offer shot down by Bytedance, Oracle will go on to eventually own a 20% stake in the company. Not just Oracle, but if Walmart’s negotiations of acquiring a stake also bear fruit, it would be gifted with a seat at the board table.
The proposed IPO of TikTok would be one of the tech sector’s biggest-ever stock market debuts, especially on the back of the fact that the app has been valued by ByteDance investors at more than $50 billion. The filing of the IPO on the US stock exchange is expected to come about in a year.
While it would, undoubtedly, reduce ByteDance’s stake in the company further, it could help in allaying tensions with the US officials.
Given how the saga has unfolded, one still cannot be absolutely certain about whether President Trump will sign off on the agreement. Also shrouded in doubt are what assets TikTok Global would own beyond the app’s assets in the US. From their side though, ByteDance has offered to create as many as 25,000 new jobs in the US to further secure Trump’s blessing for a deal.
The US administration is said to be adamant that the board of TikTok Global include a National Security Director, vetted by the US and a separate security committee to oversee the protection of user data. The term sheet will still grant Oracle the right to inspect TikTok’s source code to include stringent provisions to ensure data security, with data to be housed in the mainland by Oracle.
With as many as 40% Americans backing Trump’s threat to ban TikTok if not sold to a US buyer, helmed by a hell-bent President to impose sanctions, we have certainly not seen the last of ByteDance’s offerings. While the White House will continue probing the details of the detail, the onus is on ByteDance to protect a critical market using whatever means it can.
Now, the ball is back in China’s court as the the Oracle TikTok partnership agreement is yet to get a node from Chinese authorities. It would be interesting to see will the 3 month long tug of war ends with win-win situation for all, or China will revert back with some kind of response that could strain the tied further.
As the clock ticks, stay tuned to this space for more updates.