Walmart is partnering with Microsoft in its bid for the US operations of TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned video sharing app that President Donald Trump has vowed to shut down unless it is sold to a US company by mid-November.

The world’s largest retailer said in a statement that it was confident a joint bid with the tech group would satisfy the Trump administration, which has accused the app, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, of threatening national security.

Walmart’s interest in the social media platform, which would take it far from its business of consumer goods and groceries, is a sign of the company’s aspirations to expand online as it takes on Amazon.

Its interest came to light just hours after the Financial Times revealed that TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer was quitting his role. Mr Mayer joined TikTok three months ago but is leaving because of the pressure being applied on the company by Mr Trump.

In a letter to employees Mr Mayer wrote that “the political environment has sharply changed”, adding: “it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company”.

“I understand that the role that I signed up for — including running TikTok globally — will look very different as a result of the US administration’s action to push for a sell-off of the US business,” he added.

His departure comes amid an intensifying race for TikTok’s US operations, with Microsoft and Walmart competing with Oracle, which is bidding together with a group of US investors including General Atlantic and Sequoia.

A purchase of TikTok could allow Walmart to better target a more youthful demographic as well as give it valuable data on online consumer behaviour.

“We believe a potential relationship with TikTok US in partnership with Microsoft could add this key functionality”, Walmart said in a statement. adding that a deal could help increase its third-party marketplace and advertising businesses.

“We are confident that a Walmart and Microsoft partnership would meet both the expectations of US TikTok users while satisfying the concerns of US government regulators,” the US retailer added.

Yiming Zhang, ByteDance’s founder and chief executive, said the Chinese company was “moving quickly to find resolutions to the issues that we face globally, particularly in the US and India”.

Walmart’s entry into the race to buy TikTok in concert with Microsoft was first reported by CNBC.

The retailer’s shares jumped more than 5 per cent on news of its interest in TikTok. It has experimented with video before, including venturing into movie streaming a decade ago when it bought Vudu, although it sold that platform earlier this year.

Its decision to partner with Microsoft on the bid shows it does not want to be distracted from its core business, said Neil Saunders, managing director of the GlobalData Retail consultancy.

“As large and competent as it is, Walmart is not primarily in the technology business,” he said. “This is one reason why a potential partnership with Microsoft makes good sense.”


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