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Microsoft (MSFT) is reportedly in talks to buy controversial video sharing app TikTok, as US president Donald Trump threatens to ban the platform on home soil.
The sale from Chinese company Bytedance would serve to bolster Microsoft’s advertising business and would be the company’s most significant acquisition since its purchase of LinkedIn in 2016.
Reuters reported on Friday the pair were in “exploratory deal talks,” citing people familiar with the matter.
Forcing Bytedance to divest would potentially resolve, in part, long-held data concerns for some policy makers about Chinese-owned companies operating on US soil.
Donald Trump has not endorsed the deal, however, telling reporters aboard Air Force One last night: "As far as TikTok is concerned, we're banning them from the United States."
When asked when this would happen, he said: “Soon, immediately. I mean essentially immediately.”
It is not clear what authority the president would have over a blanket TikTok ban, or what legal challenges it would face.
He said he could use emergency powers or an executive order to push such a ban through.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A TikTok spokesman said: “While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok.”
Microsoft’s move comes amid mounting tension between western powers and China. The US has been locked in tense trade disputes with China over the past few years.
Alongside this the US has also criticised Beijing’s handling of coronavirus outbreaks.