Following the shut out of Tik Tok by local governments citing fears that sensitive user data was passing into the hands of the Chinese state, news about the app considering selling its operations in several countries is out.
SoftBank Group Corp. is exploring assembling a group of bidders for TikTok’s India assets and has been actively looking for local partners, according to some sources.
Over the past month, the Japanese conglomerate, which owns a stake in TikTok’s Chinese parent ByteDance Ltd., has held talks with the heads of India’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. and Bharti Airtel Ltd., the people said, asking not to be identified because the details are private. While discussions have fizzled since, SoftBank is still exploring options, according to the people.
On the contrary however, representatives for SoftBank, ByteDance, Reliance and Bharti Airtel have denied any comments on the matter.
Many local governments have shut out the app lately, citing fears that sensitive user data was passing into the hands of the Chinese state.
India, a long-time regional rival, has taken a particularly tough stance, banning 59 of China’s largest internet services in July, including TikTok. The move came less than a month after 20 Indian soldiers died in border clashes amid heightening nationalism stoked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Subsequently, TikTok is considering selling its operations in several countries.
SoftBank would almost certainly need a local partner to cut a deal that would win government approval. Before the ban, India was one of TikTok’s largest markets, with more than 200 million users.
Also the situation worsened as regard the app when the U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to ban TikTok and then ordered ByteDance to sell its assets in the country because of national security concerns.
Although the SoftBank holds only a minor stake in ByteDance, yet it ha played a particularly active role in negotiations. In the U.S., the Japanese company brought in Walmart Inc. as the main investor in a group of bidders that also included Google parent Alphabet Inc. But the consortium fell apart after the Trump administration insisted a U.S. tech company lead the investments, one of the people said. Google said it is no longer interested, while Walmart joined a bid led by Microsoft Corp. It’s unclear which group SoftBank is currently working with in the country.
Centricus Asset Management Ltd., which is also a frequent adviser to SoftBank, teamed up with Triller Inc. in a bid for TikTok’s operations in the U.S. and several other countries for $20 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter.