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TikTok’s latest US deadline countdown begins

(ATP) ByteDance, the Chinese owner of the popular video sharing app TikTok passed a deadline to sell US assets last Thursday, but was granted an extension to the sale order after US judges ruled against enforcing an earlier decision by the Trump administration. 

“The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has granted ByteDance a 15-day extension of the original November 12, 2020 deadline. This extension will provide the parties and the committee additional time to resolve this case in a manner that complies with the order,” a statement by Treasury official Monica Crowley said, which was released on November 13.

That gives ByteDance a nominal deadline of November 27 to reach an agreement to sell US assets. 

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The Trump administration has said that TikTok poses a national security threat because it could be used to give the personal data of millions of Americans to the Chinese government.

ByteDance denies that TikTok is a data security threat but has taken steps to divest its US assets nevertheless, including a plan to sell a stake to Oracle, the US technology firm, and Walmart, the retail giant.

Even before Donald Trump lost the recent US election, his administration had been pursuing its battle over TikTok in a haphazard manner.

And ByteDance has been challenging steps announced by the US administration in the courts, with some success in fending off decisions.

Clock ticking

Now the clock is ticking on a Trump administration which is likely to end on schedule with the swearing in of Joe Biden as the next president on January 20, despite a continuing refusal by Trump to concede that he lost the election.

Trump seems determined to continue his vendetta with China during the last two months of his presidency, as steps last week to limit US investments in firms with links to the Chinese military demonstrate.

He has not mentioned TikTok in his barrage of recent tweets, however.

So, there is a chance that ByteDance will be able to win another extension to the current deadline of November 27, in the hope of simply waiting for the end of a distracted Trump administration.

An attempt to resolve the legal challenges by resurrecting the deal with Oracle and Walmart is also an option for ByteDance.

US policy towards China is not expected to shift dramatically under Biden, but corporations that are caught in the hostility between the two nations can probably hope for policy decisions that are at least more predictable under the next administration.

ByteDance may hope to take steps to present the incoming administration with a solution that addresses US national security concerns and can be approved with relatively little further drama.


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Jon Macaskill

Jon Macaskill has over 25 years experience covering financial markets from New York and London. He won the State Street press award for 'Best Editorial Comment' in 2016


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