WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Monday said the popular Chinese app, TikTok, would be banned in the country beginning September 15, unless it is bought by an American company and asserted that a substantial amount of the buyout deal should go to the treasury.
Technology giant Microsoft is in talks with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance to buy its US operation.
However, the president is in favour of a complete 100 per cent purchase and not the 30 per cent as reportedly being negotiated now.
Trump confirmed to reporters that he spoke to Microsoft’s India-born CEO Satya Nadella on the issue.
“We had a great conversation. He (Nadella) called me to see how I felt about it. I said, look, it can’t be controlled for security reasons by China…(its) too big, too invasive. It can’t be…I don’t mind whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else, a big company…American company buys it. It’s probably easier to buy the whole thing rather than to buy 30 per cent of it,” Trump told reporters in the Cabinet Room of the White House.
“I said how do you do 30 per cent? Who’s going to get the name. The name is hot. The brand is hot. Who’s going to get the name and who is going to get that when it’s owned by two different companies. So, my personal opinion was, you probably better off buying the whole thing rather than buying 30 per cent of it. I think buying 30 per cent is complicated and I suggested that he can go ahead. He can try,” he said.
Trump said he has “set a date at around September 15 at which point it (TikTok) is going to be out of business in the United States”.
However, he said, “If somebody, whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else buys it. That would be interesting, I did say that if you buy it, whatever the price is that goes to whoever owns it.”
Trump said there would have to be a substantial payment to the US government as part of the deal.
“A very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the treasury of the US because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen. Right now, they don’t have any rights unless we give it to them. So, we’re going to give them the rights that has to come into. It has to come into this country. It’s a little bit like the landlord tenant. Without a lease, the tenant has nothing. So they pay what’s called key money or they pay something,” he said.
Trump said TikTok is a great asset “but it’s not a great asset in the US unless they have the approval of” the American government.
“So it’ll close down on September 15 unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it and work out a deal. An appropriate deal. And the Treasury gets a lot of money, a lot of them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Redmond-headquartered Microsoft, in a statement on Sunday, said following a conversation between Nadella and Trump, it is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the US.
“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,” the statement said.
Microsoft will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance in a matter of weeks and will complete these discussions in any event by September 15, it said.
Trump last week threatened to ban the popular video-sharing app in the US after concerns were raised that it could be a national security risk.
Microsoft said the discussions with TikTok’s parent firm ByteDance will build upon a notification made by Microsoft and ByteDance to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
Microsoft added that “in any event” it would finish talking with ByteDance no later than September 15.
The two companies have provided notice of their intent to explore a preliminary proposal that would involve a purchase of the TikTok service in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and would result in Microsoft owning and operating TikTok in these markets.
Microsoft may also invite other American investors to participate on a minority basis in this purchase.
The company said among other measures, Microsoft would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the US.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday said TikTok cannot stay in the current format in the US as it “risks sending back information on 100 million Americans”.
Mnuchin said he has spoken to several top American lawmakers and all agree that “there has to be a change”.
In recent weeks, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused TikTok of collecting personal information of Americans.
TikTok has previously stressed that its US user data is already stored on US-based servers and backed up in Singapore, and is therefore not subject to Chinese law as some US officials have feared.