Trump has warned that he would ban TikTok operations in the US on September 15 without a sale thus prompting Microsoft to make moves to acquire the firm.
Reuters news agency reported last week that some investors are valuing TikTok at about $50bn, citing people familiar with the matter.
“I did say that if you buy it, whatever the price is that goes to whoever owns it, because I guess it’s China essentially … I said 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 on Monday.
Trump later defended his push for a cut, adding: “Nobody else would be thinking about but me, but that’s the way I think.”
Nicholas Klein, a lawyer at DLA Piper, said that generally “the [US] government doesn’t have the authority to take a cut of a private deal” through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the interagency committee that reviews some foreign investments in the US.
It was not clear how the US government would receive part of the purchase price.
Klein added it “will close down on September 15 unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it and work out a deal, an appropriate deal, so the Treasury … of the United States gets a lot of money.”
China reacted angrily to Trump’s attempt to get a US company to acquire the TikTok. The state-run China Daily newspaper said on Tuesday that China would not accept the “theft” of a technology company and is able to respond.
The US’s “bullying” of Chinese tech companies was a consequence of Washington’s zero-sum vision of “American first” and left China no choice but “submission or mortal combat in the tech realm”, the paper said in an editorial.
China had “plenty of ways to respond if the administration carries out its planned smash and grab”, it added.
TikTok said Monday it was “committed to continuing to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform as we build TikTok for the long term. TikTok will be here for many years to come.”
Daniel Elman, analyst at Nucleus Research, said a sale “could foreshadow a growing wave of US company acquisition of Chinese internet properties, particularly if the geopolitical tensions continue to mount.”
Elman said that could impact Tencent’s WeChat.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referenced WeChat on Sunday and said Trump “will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party.”
US officials have said TikTok poses a national risk because of the personal data it handles. TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer said in a blog post last week that the company was committed to following US laws and was allowing experts to observe its moderation policies and examine the code that drives its algorithms.
Trump’s comments confirmed a Reuters report on Sunday that he had agreed to give China’s ByteDance, the company behind TikTok, 45 days to negotiate a sale of the short video platform to Microsoft.
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