TikTok denies in talks with rival app Triller over potential bid for its US operations

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TikTok logos can be seen on smartphones in front of a ByteDance logo displayed in this illustration taken on November 27, 2019.In view of Ruvic | Reuters

Chinese company TikTok is not in talks to sell its U.S. business to short video-sharing app Triller, the company told CNBC on Monday.“We can confirm that we are not and will not be in talks with them. Still, we’re flattered to see how much they admire TikTok, ”said a spokesperson for TikTok.

Still, Triller executive chairman Bobby Sarnevesht insisted the offer had been submitted. “We have confirmation that the president (Zhang Yiming) and the pretty high-up folks at ByteDance are aware of this, and we have a correspondence,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday.

His comments came after Bloomberg News reported that Centricus Asset Management and the London-based US app Triller were looking to buy TikTok’s operations in the US, Australia, New Zealand and India for $ 20 billion. of dollars, citing someone familiar with the subject. The offer was reportedly submitted to ByteDance, the Beijing-based parent company of TikTok.

ByteDance reported TikTok’s comment on it to CNBC. The company also denied knowing about the offer to Reuters. TikTok executives are also reportedly unaware of receiving such an offer and said no one from the Chinese-owned short video-sharing app has spoken with Triller about it.

TikTok, which has roughly 100 million monthly active users in the United States, is being forced to sell its American business by the Trump administration, which says the app’s current ties to China make it a threat to the national security. In an executive order signed by President Donald Trump on August 6, the United States alleged that China could potentially gain access to “Americans’ personal and proprietary information” as a result of data collected by TikTok.

For its part, TikTok has always denied such allegations and said that its US user data is stored in the country itself with a backup in Singapore and that its data centers are located outside of China, implying that the information was not subject to Chinese law.

TikTok also sued the U.S. government alleging it was deprived of due process and that former CEO Kevin Mayer recently left the company just months after joining in June.

ByteDance is in talks with Microsoft, Oracle and other company investors to sell TikTok’s operations in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand before the September 15 deadline. Earlier this month, CNBC’s David Faber announced that Microsoft could buy TikTok for $ 30 billion.

Triller’s purported bid of $ 20 billion puts it at a similar level. But, Centricus on its website says it oversees $ 27 billion in assets, so it wasn’t immediately clear how the deal could be funded.

Sarnevesht insisted it was not a publicity stunt. “We’re not crazy, we’re not here pretending to have an offer and not to have an offer. It does not mean anything. It’s at least confusing, but I think there’s just an overall lag on their data and how they share that information, ”he told CNBC.

He said the reason Triller entered the auction game late was because he was working on an implementation plan if he acquired the operations of TikTok.

He declined to say how much the potential deal might be worth, but added that Triller plans to migrate users, metadata and content from TikTok to his platform.

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