Billionaire Larry Ellison's tech giant has reportedly already held talks with the parent company.
Would-be suitors have been lining up since US President Donald Trump's emergency order banning ByteDance from operating in the country, citing security concerns.
- Microsoft – current frontrunner, may also be interested in European and Indian or even global operations;
- Twitter – although it looks like they may be unable to pony up the required dowry, ruling them out;
- India's Reliance Jio – interested in the Indian operation; the app has been banned by Prime MInister Narendra Modi.
Trump gave the Chinese company 45 days to arrange the sale, before relenting a little on Friday and extending this to within 90 days.
Dance, dance, dance
The president's repeated claims about the safety of TikTok have been equally repeatedly denied by parent ByteDance.
Trump underlined his distaste for the platform – a favorite of comedians like Sarah Cooper, who use the platform to poke fun at the president – by signing up with smaller US rival Triller (tagline: "You do you").
Triller is in the process of suing TikTok for breach of patent, as the platform predates the app and does essentially the same thing.
Ellison is one of a handful of tech leaders that have supported Trump openly.
If the sale goes through – no matter who the lucky groom ends up being – this is not going to be straightforward.
According to Reuters, investors valued TikTok at $50 billion at the end of July 2020, while insiders speaking to the FT said ByteDance is not interested in selling anything beyond the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand slices of the pie.
It would also be foolish not to spare a thought for those that went before – specifically short-form video platform Vine.
The app was a phenomenon – before being bought by Twitter and dying an ignominious death not long afterwards.
And as The Verge notes – is it even possible? How would backend operations be divided? Nothing like this has ever been attempted, splitting an existing social network down regional lines.
A window on transparency
TikTok meanwhile has taken direct action to counteract allegations made by the US.
The company has set up a site where it plans to "set the record straight" and respond to "rumors and misinformation" – tiktokus.info (tag line: "The last sunny corner of the internet").
Here the reader can find robust rebuttals to moves against the company, media coverage and details of the app's transparency policy.
"TikTok is not available in China," the website says.
"Its US user data is stored in Virginia with a back-up in Singapore and strict controls on employee access.”"
"TikTok has never provided any US user data to the Chinese government, nor would it do so if asked."
"Any insinuation to the contrary is unfounded and blatantly false."
Making clear the business sees this as an attack on free speech and open markets, TikTok says it will use all the tools at its disposal to ensure the rule of law was respected for its 100 million US users.
The rollercoaster journey from lip-syncing app beloved by teens and tweens alike to enemy of the people, has been a swift one – and it's not over yet.
- US adds 38 more Huawei-related firms to its naughty list
- Time for some actual rules on China tech trade
- India's Reliance wants to buy Bytedance’s TikTok – report
- Twitter steps forward as TikTok suitor, reports say
- Trump call reboots Microsoft's TikTok buyout talks