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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Microsoft is working with Walmart on its efforts to buy TikTok's U.S. business from China's ByteDance, Axios has learned from multiple sources close to the process.

The state of play: The idea would be to help turn TikTok U.S. into more of an e-commerce app for creators and users, much like what TikTok parent company ByteDance does with a similar app in China.

  • The news was first reported by CNBC, which later said Walmart confirmed its participation.
  • The development comes just hours after former Disney executive Kevin Mayer resigned as CEO of TikTok and COO of ByteDance, with sources saying he'd been excluded by ByteDance from the takeover talks.
  • There is not yet a signed agreement between Microsoft and ByteDance, as the sides technically have until Sept. 15 to submit a deal proposal to the White House for approval.
  • Conversations continue to only center on TikTok's operations in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Between the lines: It's possible that Walmart also has had discussions with Oracle, which also continues to negotiate with ByteDance.

  • SoftBank Group is not involved in the Microsoft/Walmart effort, although the Japanese firm has made inquiries to ByteDance, per sources.

The bottom line: Walmart adds more financial firepower and e-commerce know-how to Microsoft's efforts. But Walmart also has a significant presence in China, which could complicate Microsoft and ByteDance's efforts to get a deal through the Trump administration.

Go deeper

Nov 10, 2020 - Economy & Business

Robots vs. retail workers

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

For years, retail has been lurching toward automation. Last week, Walmart took a significant step back.

Why it matters: In a rare win for retail workers, Walmart decided to take shelf-scanning robots out of its stores in favor of humans. But automation is still coming faster for retail jobs than for most other occupations, experts say.

NYT: Khashoggi's killers had paramilitary training in U.S.

A vigil for journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, following his killing in 2018 in Turkey. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Several Saudis who took part in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi had paramilitary training in the U.S. under a State Department contract a year before his 2018 death, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: While there's no evidence the department knew that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sanctioned Saudi officials to detain, kidnap and torture dissidents in 2017, the approval of such training underscores how "intensely intertwined" the U.S. has become with a nation known for human rights abuses, per the NYT.

U.S. attorney finalist trashes Labor secretary

Rachael Rollins and Marty Walsh. Photos: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images (Rollins); Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images (Walsh)

A finalist for U.S. attorney in Boston is publicly trashing the city's former mayor — Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.

Why it matters: Rachael Rollins’ approach is perpetuating scrutiny of a troubled Cabinet secretary and fellow Democrat — and hints at the independence she may exhibit if tapped for top federal prosecutor for the eastern half of Massachusetts.