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Business deals

Walmart joins Microsoft's TikTok bid as rival leaps ahead

Oracle reportedly nearing a deal to buy China's first global hit

Retail giant Walmart has teamed up with Microsoft to buy popular Chinese-owned video app TikTok.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- Walmart has emerged as another unexpected suitor for TikTok as the Chinese-owned social media app races to sell its American operations before a fall deadline set by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The retail giant confirmed Thursday that it has joined Microsoft in pursuing TikTok. The duo would be vying against a reported alliance between American software giant Oracle and existing TikTok shareholders General Atlantic and Sequoia.

"We are confident that a Walmart and Microsoft partnership would meet both the expectations of U.S. TikTok users while satisfying the concerns of U.S. government regulators," the retailer told the Nikkei Asian Review on Thursday.

Walmart's statement came hours after a report that Oracle is nearing a $20 billion deal that could be announced in the coming days.

Trump last week talked up Oracle as a possible operator of TikTok, calling it a "great company." Co-founder Larry Ellison, a supporter of his, is a "tremendous guy," Trump said.

All three companies' interest in the Generation Z-dominated app came as a surprise to many: one is a retail chain, while both software makers are perceived to be more enterprise facing.

Walmart, a household name more associated with supermarkets than algorithms, says it sees TikTok as a way to reach so-called omnichannel customers and grow its third-party marketplace and advertising businesses.

The retail giant has already got a taste of the power of short video marketing via TikTok's sister app on the mainland, Douyin.

In April 2019, Walmart China launched a dance challenge with branded stickers on Douyin to advertise a discount campaign, attracting over 1.5 billion views and 42 million user interactions, according to Chinese media reports.

The Chinese version of TikTok also comes with e-commerce features within the app, which could be potentially borrowed for the U.S. market if Walmart so wished.

"The way TikTok has integrated e-commerce and advertising capabilities in other markets is a clear benefit to creators and users in those markets," Walmart explained in its Thursday statement.

TikTok's Beijing-based parent ByteDance has until mid-November to divest U.S. parts of the viral app under an Aug. 14 executive order from Trump, which cited a national security threat.

An earlier executive order also would ban as-yet-unspecified "transactions" with ByteDance in mid-September.

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