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15 Mar, 2024 14:56

Ex-US Treasury Secretary reveals TikTok purchase plans

Steven Mnuchin told CNBC he is putting together an investor group to try to buy the short-video app
Ex-US Treasury Secretary reveals TikTok purchase plans

Former US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he is building an investor group to acquire TikTok, a day after the House of Representatives voted to force the social media platform’s Chinese owner ByteDance to sell the app or face a US ban.

The House passed the legislation by a vote of 352-65 on Wednesday, citing national-security risks. The bill now goes to the Senate. US President Joe Biden previously said he would sign the bill into law if it passes both houses of Congress.

“I think the legislation should pass and I think [TikTok] should be sold,” Mnuchin, who leads Liberty Strategic Capital, told CNBC on Thursday. “It’s a great business and I’m going to put together a group to buy TikTok,” he stated.

Mnuchin, who served as Treasury Secretary under former President Donald Trump, did not specify who the other investors would be in such a deal or the potential valuation for the social media site.

“This should be owned by US businesses,” he stressed, adding “There’s no way that the Chinese would ever let a US company own something like this in China.” 

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal had earlier reported that former Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick was also shopping a potential deal to prospective partners. However, according to CNBC, it remains unclear whether the Chinese government would permit ByteDance to sell TikTok to a US buyer.

China has lashed out at an ongoing effort to ban the popular social media platform in the US, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin saying that such a step would violate international trade rules. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew has implied that a sale is not an option.

While TikTok is the only application specifically mentioned in the document currently winding its way through Congress, it creates a framework for Washington to ban other platforms controlled by countries it considers “foreign adversaries,” experts warn. The list of nations labeled as such includes China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela.

If inked into law, the bill would give ByteDance 165 days to divest TikTok, which has more than 170 million American users. If it fails to do so, US web-hosting companies would have to remove TikTok and other apps linked to ByteDance from their app stores.