TikTok sale disrupted as China rewrites rules to give itself a veto

  • The sale of TikTok’s US operations was thrown into disarray over the weekend by new regulations from China.
  • On Friday, Chinese officials widened a list of technology sales over which it can wield a veto, seeking to give itself new authority over any TikTok deal.
  • According to The Wall Street Journal, TikTok parent ByteDance pulled back from talks with suitors like Microsoft and Oracle to consider the new rules.
  • ByteDance is looking to sell after President Donald Trump said the app will be banned if it is still operated by a Chinese company by mid-November.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The sale of TikTok’s US operations to a domestic buyer — likely Microsoft or Oracle — has been thrown into disarray after China rewrote its technology export rules to give itself a veto over the process.

According to The Wall Street Journal, negotiators for TikTok parent ByteDance and its main suitors were planning to advance their discussions over the weekend, but shelved those plans in light of the new rules.

China’s government on Friday issued an update to its regulations governing how technology can be exported, adding 23 new categories of technology which require government approval before being sold.

tiktok bytedance china

The logos of TikTok and its parent company ByteDance.

Reuters File Photo

They include speech recognition, text recognition, and code for making personalized recommendations.

Chinese officials have not explicitly said that a TikTok sale would be affected under these regulations.

However, both the Journal and Bloomberg cited sources saying that the update to the tech export rules — which were last changed in 2008 — was made with the TikTok deal in mind.

China’s official Xinhua news agency said as much in an article Sunday which cited a trade adviser to the government who said ByteDance “will need to comply” with the new rules.

ByteDance issued a statement Sunday saying that it was aware of the new rules and would follow them.

China’s intervention added a new layer of complexity to the TikTok sale, prompted by a pending US ban on its operation contained an in executive order by President Donald Trump.

TikTok is suing the Trump administration to block the ban, while negotiating with potential buyers at the same time.

Analysts and commentators have suggested that TikTok’s US operations could sell for more than $20 billion.

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