Oracle enters bidding fray for social video app TikTok

Brief:

  • Oracle is in talks to buy parts of TikTok, the social video app that faces the possibility of being banned in the U.S. because of national security concerns, according to media reports. The business software giant is working with U.S. venture capital firms including General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital on a potential deal, the Financial Times reported.
  • Oracle is focused on buying TikTok’s operations in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, CNBC reported, citing a person familiar with the talks. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that has disputed claims by U.S. officials that it could share personal information about Americans with the Chinese government.
  • President Trump on Tuesday expressed support for Oracle’s possible bid for TikTok’s U.S. operations. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is a supporter of the president, and held a fundraising event for his re-election campaign in February, BBC reported.

Insight:

Oracle’s reported talks to buy parts of TikTok adds a new dimension to ByteDance’s effort to divest its U.S. operations before possibly being banned in the country. The Trump administration has increased pressure on ByteDance to sell its U.S. operations or face the possibility of losing access to one of the world’s biggest digital advertising markets. Oracle’s entry could kick off a bidding war and help ByteDance fetch a higher price for TikTok, which has enormous potential to grow advertising revenue and expand its audience among a wider group of consumers.

TikTok nearly doubled its U.S. user base to 52.2 million from October to March, eMarketer estimated, a growth trajectory that is inviting to any potential acquirer. Twitter has also reportedly expressed interest in acquiring TikTok, but its bid is considered a long-shot since Twitter isn’t as well funded as Microsoft and Oracle. 

For Oracle, whose core business is in enterprise software and database applications, an acquisition of TikTok would help it expand into the consumer market and gain access to a vast amount of consumer data. A bid for TikTok pits Oracle against Microsoft, another major software developer whose portfolio is somewhat more diversified outside of the enterprise market, for a chance to own TikTok’s operations in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries.

Microsoft for several weeks has been in talks with ByteDance to buy parts of TikTok, an effort that became more immediate as the Trump administration increased pressure on the Chinese company to sell its U.S. operations or face a ban. In several ways, Microsoft is better positioned than Oracle to consummate a deal and oversee TikTok’s ongoing expansion in the U.S. Microsoft has $136 billion in cash and a market value of $1.6 trillion, giving it plenty of currency for a deal that may reach $50 billion, according to at least one estimate cited by Reuters. Microsoft also has experience with consumer-facing brands as the operator of the Xbox gaming system and the Bing search engine. Oracle had $37.2 billion in cash and equivalents at the end of May, and a market value of $169 billion, though it can easily raise money from venture capital firms with extensive networks of investors.

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