Japanese conglomerate SoftBank has started talks for a possible acquisition of the banned India unit of TikTok, two people aware of the development said.
“The discussions are at an early stage, and the deal will depend on factors such as valuation, government regulations etc.,” said one of the two people, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity.
Bloomberg first reported the discussions on Thursday evening. SoftBank could tie up with other partners for the deal, the people cited above added.
SoftBank declined to comment on the development. An email sent to ByteDance India, the parent of TikTok, remained unanswered till press time.
According to the Bloomberg report, SoftBank had begun talks with Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd and Bharti Airtel Ltd for an investment in TikTok’s India operations, but these talks fizzled out. The Masayoshi Son-led investment firm owns a minority stake in TikTok’s parent company ByteDance.
Following a deadly border clash in Ladakh, India on 29 June banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, on the grounds of national security, for sharing sensitive user data with the Chinese government.
Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio was being seen as a logical suitor for TikTok as it does not have any social media platform yet. Also, Jio Platforms had raised ₹1.52 trillion by selling a total of 33% stake to 13 strategic investors, giving it ample firepower to make large acquisitions such as TikTok’s India unit, which is estimated to be valued at $3 billion.
With little progress in its talks with the government, ByteDance has been reportedly considering selling its India unit. TikTok is facing the threat of a ban in the US unless ByteDance sells the American operations to a non-Chinese firm.