Triller says made $20 billion bid with Centricus for TikTok assets

 Triller Inc executive chairman Bobby Sarnevesht said on Friday that the short-video app had made a $20 billion offer with investment firm Centricus Asset Management Ltd for the assets of rival TikTok that China’s ByteDance is seeking to a divest.

FILE PHOTO: A TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone in this illustration taken January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

ByteDance and TikTok denied knowledge of the offer, raising questions over whether the proposed deal between two of the most popular social media apps in the United States represented a serious bid or was a publicity stunt.

ByteDance has been ordered by President Donald Trump to divest TikTok in the United States, amid security concerns over the personal data it handles.

Microsoft Corp and Oracle Corp are among the U.S. companies vying to acquire the assets of TikTok, which claims about 100 million monthly active users in the United States. The Chinese firm is expected to pick a bidder to enter into exclusive talks soon.

“We submitted an offer directly to the chairman of ByteDance through Centricus, and have confirmation it was received and is under consideration by him,” Sarnevesht told Reuters.

Bloomberg News reported on the bid earlier on Friday.

A TikTok spokesman said Centricus and Triller had not contacted the company about an offer.

Sarnevesht said this was because TikTok was not involved in the talks, adding that Triller and Centricus were dealing directly with ByteDance chairman Zhang Yiming.

ByteDance, however, said it was also unaware of the offer from Triller and Centricus.

“The company has not had any conversations with them and we are unaware of any interest,” ByteDance said in a statement.

The proposed $20 billion bid will be financed by Centricus, with Triller executives running TikTok should their bid prevail, according to a person familiar with the financial details, who sought anonymity.

It was not immediately clear, however, if Centricus, with $27 billion in assets according to its website, could muster the resources for such a bid.

The London-based firm did not respond to a request for comment.

“We understand our offer is upsetting to some TikTok U.S. executives, as it upsets a deal that may be more favorable to them and less favorable to the shareholders,” Sarnevesht said in his statement.

“They are doing everything they can to discredit our offer and keep it from being seen as real.”

Triller boasts 65 million monthly active users, versus TikTok’s 100 million in the United States. Triller sought a $1.25 billion valuation in a private fundraising round this month.

While TikTok is best known for its anodyne videos of people dancing and having gone viral among teenagers, U.S. officials have expressed concern that user information could be passed to China’s communist government.

Trump, a prolific user of social media, joined Triller this month.

“We’ve gotten assurances from people close to the White House that this is something that the administration would favor,” Sarnevesht said.

“All we need TikTok to do is to give us their user data and the content, and the Triller platform can handle it.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a luxury mansion in the Hollywood Hills, young TikTok influencers bounced around on a bright sunny morning this week trying out new ideas for zany short-form videos that they hope will go viral.

They’re also feeling concerned about their future.

Kids Next Door LA is one of a number of TikTok houses set up around the United States where teens live, sleep and brainstorm creative ideas for dance and music videos and seek deals with brands that can bring in millions of dollars for the top influencers.

But their livelihoods are now at risk from an executive order by U.S. President Donald Trump that will effectively ban the social media app if its Chinese parent ByteDance does not reach a deal to divest it by mid-September.

“For two to five months, maybe, everybody is going to take a big hit. Everyone is going to lose a stream of revenue. I think it’s really stupid ... what Trump is doing,” said Adam Miguel 27, known on TikTok as @itsadamm, who is one of the seven influencers at the house.

Walmart Inc (WMT.N) said this week it was joining Microsoft (MSFT.O) in a bid for TikTok’s U.S. assets. ByteDance is expected to pick a bidder to enter into exclusive talks as early as Friday but it’s not clear how any deal would affect the future of the quirky videos that are loved by millions and those who make them.

Claire Hesser, 18, a former beauty queen, says TikTok has quickly become a huge part of youth culture.

“I feel like if it gets taken away, I feel it’s going to hurt more rather than a benefit. ... I just wish that they understood that TikTok really does have an impact on our world today and our generation especially,” she said.

It’s not just the influencers that any changes could affect, but also brands seeking to do business with them.

“Maybe people shut down sales in-store and they were going to do an e-commerce strategy that involved TikTok. It could affect a lot of industries - especially the music industry because so many songs go viral from TikTok,” said Ariadna Jacob, whose company manages Kids Next Door LA.

Hailey Orona, known online as @real.ona, has 9.5 million followers on TikTok and is about to launch her own beauty line. But she also has 2.8 million followers on Instagram to fall back on.

“If it does get banned, I have a back-up plan, of course, which is to move to the YouTube platform or use the Reels on Instagram,” Orona said.

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