WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump has ordered the Chinese owner of popular music video app TikTok to sell its US assets, citing national security concerns and delivering the latest salvo in his stand-off with Beijing.
Mr Trump’s decision came after an investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS), which reviews acquisitions of American businesses by overseas investors for national security concerns.
Chinese technology firm ByteDance bought the Musical.ly app in 2017 and merged it with TikTok.
Mr Trump said in the order released on Friday night that ByteDance “might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States”.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement that “CFIUS conducted an exhaustive review of the case and unanimously recommended this action to the President in order to protect US users from exploitation of their personal data”.
TikTok said in a statement: “As we’ve said previously, TikTok is loved by 100 million Americans because it is their home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection.
It added: “We’re committed to continuing to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform for many years to come.”
The order signed by Mr Trump on Friday sets a 90-day deadline for a possible sale of TikTok to a US buyer, yet the app’s Chinese owner may have to act more quickly.
A separate executive order, issued by Mr Trump earlier this month, would prohibit US persons and companies from doing business with TikTok effective 45 days from the Aug 6 signing date.
And Mr Trump has previously set an even faster timetable, telling reporters last Thursday at the White House that “we have a deadline of Sept 15” for a deal to be reached.
Microsoft is exploring an acquisition of TikTok’s US operations and it is possible that other potential buyers could come forward, sparking a potential bidding war for the assets.
Microsoft’s industry peers – Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Alphabet – fit the profile of potential suitors, though all are under antitrust scrutiny from US regulators, which would likely complicate a deal.