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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Trump administration plans to sign an order directing China-based ByteDance to divest its U.S.-based video sharing app TikTok, which is already in talks to be acquired by Microsoft, according to news reports Friday.

Why it matters: The U.S. since last year has been reviewing national security risks of ByteDance's control of TikTok, recently valued at $50 billion. This order would require ByteDance to cede majority control of TikTok, Bloomberg reports, citing people familiar with the matter. The order could come as early as Friday.

Context: The Trump administration has been casting a cold eye on Chinese companies operating in the U.S., with campaigns aimed at Huawei, ZTE and other technology firms. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have argued that TikTok is a national security risk.

Meanwhile: Microsoft is in talks to potentially buy TikTok, Fox Business' Charles Gasparino and the New York Times reported Friday.

  • Yes, but: The Trump administration is "deeply concerned" about such a deal, Gasparino tweeted, and would vet it extremely closely to ensure TikTok would retain no ties to Chinese investors.

Be smart: In general, Microsoft has been moving away from big consumer businesses, especially ad-funded ones, notes Axios' Ina Fried.

  • But Microsoft isn’t closed to consumer deals, especially if it sees them as foundational and capable of introducing a new generation of tech users to its ecosystem. Consider that the company’s first big acquisition under CEO Satya Nadella was the company behind Minecraft.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Nov 6, 2020 - Economy & Business

Chinese short-video and live streaming app KuaiShou files for IPO

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

KuaiShou, a Chinese short-video and live streaming app, filed for a Hong Kong IPO that reportedly will seek to raise $5 billion.

Why it matters: This reflects the booming market for TikTok-style services in China, as KuaiShou claims to have over 300 million daily users. Its rivals include Douyin (ByteDance's Chinese version of TikTok) and Nasdaq-listed Bilibili (which, like KuaiShou, includes Tencent and Alibaba as shareholders).

Bill Gates faces scrutiny over relationship with Microsoft employee, Epstein ties

Photo: Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Representatives for Bill Gates pushed back on claims Sunday that he left Microsoft's board because of an earlier sexual relationship and against two other reports detailing more extensive ties with Jeffrey Epstein than had previously been reported.

Driving the news: Microsoft said in an emailed statement to Axios that it "received a concern" in 2019 that its co-founder "sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000," but denied a Wall Street Journal report that its board members thought Gates should resign over the matter.

AT&T in talks with Discovery to combine media assets

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

AT&T is in talks with media giant Discovery about merging its media assets, like CNN, TBS and TNT, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

Why it matters: A potential merger could allow AT&T and Discovery to better compete with entertainment giants like Disney and Netflix in the video streaming wars.

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