Paving the way for Microsoft’s plan to purchase all or part of TikTok, President Trump said he supported such a deal on Monday.
“I suggested that he can go ahead,” the President said during a briefing on Monday in reference to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and a conversation the two men had over the weekend.
Yet, the President also believes Microsoft should pay the U.S. government a cut of whatever price it ultimately agrees to pay for TikTok.
“A very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States, because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen,” Trump said.
He likened the arrangement to a “landlord-tenant” relationship. “Without a lease, the tenant has nothing. … The United States should be reimbursed… because without the United States, they don’t have anything.”
Any share of the deal is likely to be significant. A number of ByteDance investors seeking to take over TikTok recently valued the app at around $50 billion, Reuters reported.
Rather than acquiring all of TikTok from its Beijing-based parent ByteDance, Microsoft said over the weekend the current plan was to buy a portion of the unit. Specifically, the software giant is interested in purchasing TikTok’s business in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Microsoft also left open the possibility of inviting other American investors to participate on a minority basis in the purchase.
Rather than buying a portion of TikTok, the President on Monday suggested Microsoft should buy it out entirely. Buying only a portion of the unit would be “complicated,” he said.
Citing national-security concerns, Trump and other government officials have voiced their uneasiness about TikTok, which they fear could be gathering user data on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.
On Friday, Trump said a U.S. ban of the popular app was imminent, while sources told Bloomberg the President was ready to sign an order directing ByteDance to divest from TikTok.
Suggesting it’s now on the same page as Trump, Microsoft said over the weekend that it is now “committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.”
Under any deal, Microsoft is promising to make user security and privacy top priorities.
In particular, Microsoft said it would ensure that all private data belonging to TikTok’s U.S. users is “transferred to and remains in the United States.”
“To the extent that any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States, Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the country after it is transferred,” the company said.Microsoft said a deal is not guaranteed, while noting it does not intend to provide further updates until a definitive outcome has been determined.