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Conflicting Reports Emerge About Scope Of Microsoft’s TikTok Bid

Reports on Thursday contradicted each other about whether Microsoft might expand its TikTok acquisition beyond the app’s operations in the U.S. and three other countries.

Uncertainty emerged on Thursday about whether Microsoft may be looking to broaden its potential acquisition of TikTok beyond the social media app’s operations in the U.S. and three other countries.

On Sunday, Microsoft disclosed it is in talks with China-based ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, to acquire the TikTok service in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand markets.

[Related: TikTok Talks Another Sign Microsoft Is ‘Not Abandoning’ Consumer Space]

On Thursday, a report from the Financial Times suggested that Microsoft might expand its bid to cover the entire TikTok business--in part to reduce the difficulty involved with splitting up back-office operations, such as human resources.

Other TikTok regions that could be added as part of the potential acquisition include Europe and India, the Financial Times reported. ByteDance’s version of TikTok for the Chinese market, Douyin, would reportedly not be included in the deal.

However, a Bloomberg report on Thursday contradicted the Financial Times account--saying the scope of the talks has not been expanded and that the focus is still on the U.S. and the three other countries previously disclosed. Business Insider also quoted an unnamed source saying that the Financial Times account is “completely false.”

Microsoft declined to comment on Thursday. TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Monday, President Donald Trump said he doesn’t have a problem with the idea of Microsoft acquiring social media app TikTok in the U.S. and other countries.

U.S. government scrutiny of TikTok has come amid worries that the app could be used by the Chinese government to acquire data on Americans.

Trump said that any acquisition deal would need to be reached by Sept. 15, or he would follow through on his previous threat to ban TikTok in the U.S.

In its blog post Sunday, Microsoft said it will move quickly to pursue discussions with ByteDance, with the goal of completing talks by Sept. 15. During this process, Microsoft said it “looks forward to continuing dialogue with the United States Government, including with the President.”

Microsoft said the negotiations with ByteDance have been focused on Microsoft owning and operating TikTok in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand markets. Microsoft said it may invite other American investors to participate on a minority basis in this purchase.

“This new structure would build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections,” Microsoft said.

TikTok features short videos posted by users and has emerged as a hugely popular social app in the U.S. in recent years, particularly among younger users.

If the TikTok acquisition were to go through, the key would be for Microsoft to monetize it without selling user data off, said Reed Wiedower, CTO of Washington, D.C.-based New Signature, an Azure Expert MSP partner of Microsoft.

For instance, Microsoft could “use it to drive subscriptions of Microsoft 365, or Xbox Game Pass, or some other subscription service that would render the effort worthwhile,” Wiedower told CRN in an email.

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