Report: SoftBank Eyeing Bid For TikTok In India

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SoftBank Group Corp. wants a piece of TikTok, the popular but controversial video-sharing app.

While Oracle, Microsoft Corp. and Walmart Inc. are the top contenders for the purchase of the ByteDance Ltd. affiliate’s operations in the U.S., New Zealand and Australia, sources told Bloomberg the Tokyo-based multinational holding company with more than $100 billion in capital is rallying a group of bidders for TikTok’s India assets.

The news outlet reports the Japanese conglomerate, owner of a stake in ByteDance, has held talks with the executives from India’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. and Bharti Airtel Ltd., according to people familiar with the negotiations.

While the sources said those discussions failed to bring an agreement, SoftBank is still interested in the purchase.

SoftBank, ByteDance, Reliance and Bharti Airtel declined to comment.

This week, The Wall Street Journal reported China’s new limits on the export of artificial intelligence (AI) technology could pose a hurdle on a potential deal for TikTok’s American operations if the programming code at the heart of the app can’t come with the deal.

The programming code is key because it decides which content gets provided to app users and is seen as an instrumental part of the platform.

A source compared TikTok without its codes to a luxury car with an inexpensive engine. Another source said it would be unexpected to not get the programming code and the arrangement might not proceed if the code is not involved.

The drama began on Aug. 6 when President Donald Trump issued an executive decision to ban transactions with the TikTok or ByteDance Ltd., within 45 days. Later, Trump issued an order that gave the China-based company 90 days, until Sept. 20, to divest its U.S. TikTok operations.

While Trump has alleged the app could be taking personal information from TikTok users and passing it on to the Chinese government, ByteDance has denied the allegations and filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, where TikTok’s American operations are based.

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