Centricus, Triller seek to buy TikTok assets for US$20 billion

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – Centricus Asset Management Ltd and Triller Inc are seeking to buy TikTok’s operations in the US and several other countries from ByteDance Ltd for US$20 billion (S$27 billion), according to a person familiar with the matter.

Investors led by London-based Centricus will partner with US-based Triller, another video and music-based social networking app, which would have a minority stake in a newly proposed joint entity, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private negotiations.

Centricus and Triller submitted their bid to Beijing-based ByteDance, this person said, for TikTok’s assets in the US, Australia, New Zealand and India.

The proposal would be made up of US$10 billion in cash up front and US$10 billion in profit-sharing from the resulting venture, the person said.

The offer would rival those from more established tech industry players, including Microsoft Corp and Oracle Corp. Walmart Inc said on Thursday that it has joined Microsoft’s bid.

When asked about a Centricus and Triller bid, a TikTok spokesman replied, “What’s Triller?” Another spokesperson called the potential deal “preposterous”.

A representative for Centricus confirmed the company had made an offer with Triller for TikTok assets in the US and some other countries. A spokesperson for Triller didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

US President Donald Trump this month threatened to ban the TikTok app in the US and then ordered ByteDance sell its US assets, citing national security concerns.

Mr Trump has issued an executive order with a mid-September deadline for TikTok to be sold or be barred in the US. A later order required ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US assets within 90 days.

The administration is also demanding that the buyer of TikTok’s US business be an American company, which makes it unclear how a Centricus bid will be received, even with Triller involved.

Centricus was founded in 2016 by former investment bankers Nizar Al-Bassam and Dalinc Ariburnu, according to its website. The firm advised SoftBank Group Corp on the creation of its US$100 billion Vision Fund, helping to raise money from the Middle East including Saudi Arabia. It also worked on SoftBank’s US$3.3 billion takeover of Fortress Investment Group LLC.

Microsoft first emerged as a possible buyer for TikTok’s operations in the US late last month. Other potential suitors including Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc. have considered a bid for TikTok’s U.S. assets, but Oracle and Microsoft appear to be the most serious contenders remaining.

TikTok Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mayer, a high-profile hire who joined ByteDance three months ago, resigned this week, saying the “political environment has sharply changed.”

Triller, whose shareholders include music talent and entertainment executives, has grown 600 per cent year over year, it said in a statement in July. At the time it had 50 million monthly active users, it said.

The company is backed by Proxima Media, which was founded by Hollywood producer Ryan Kavanaugh, a co-founder of the film studio Relativity Media.

Steven Mnuchin, now the US treasury secretary, served on Relativity’s board until May 2015 and also had run a lender that had made loans to the studio.

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