Donald Trump has cast doubt over a deal struck by Oracle to take control of TikTok’s US operations over concerns that its Chinese owner would maintain a majority stake in the social media app.
The US president expressed his dissatisfaction on Wednesday with a proposed technical deal between Oracle and ByteDance, a Beijing-based tech giant, that would see the controversial social media app transferred to a new US-headquartered company.
Under the proposals, ByteDance would retain a majority share of TikTok, despite the US government threatening an outright ban on the app unless it was spun-off completely from its Chinese parent company.
“Conceptually I can tell you I don’t like that,” he said. “That has been reported, but it has not been told to me yet. If that is the case, I’m not going to be happy with that.”
China will need to approve ByteDance's proposed deal with Oracle for its TikTok app, the Chinese company said on Thursday, indicating how its bid to stave off a ban in the United States could be further complicated.
TikTok, which commands 100m users in the US, has been caught in a geopolitical tussle between Washington and Beijing in recent months, with the US president citing national security concerns as a reason to ban the app.
TikTok has repeatedly denied that the Chinese state could access the data of US citizens through the app.
A number of contenders emerged to take control of TikTok, with Microsoft leading the pack for a number of weeks with a roughly $20bn deal that would see it run TikTok’s operations in a number of countries.
But Oracle, which was considered a dark horse in the race for the app, emerged on Monday as the winner of a deal, after Microsoft was informed by ByteDance on Sunday that it had failed in its bid.
Oracle’s proposal is set to be reviewed by the US president on Thursday, but the involvement of ByteDance has already raised concerns among security officials and regulatory lawyers who see a struggle ahead to get the deal across the line.
The Chinese tech giant has referred to Oracle as a “trusted technology partner” in the newly struck deal, with the company expected to take control of management and data of TikTok in a way that puts a ringfence between it and China.
Mr Trump previously expressed support for Oracle’s bid, having established a close relationship over the years with Larry Ellison, the billionaire co-founder of the tech firm who has backed the US president’s campaign for re-election in November.