Murky TikTok deal raises questions about China’s role

A deal to avert a U.S. ban on TikTok appears to have been reached over the weekend, but several questions remain about the contours of the pending agreement.

The most pressing is what role the short-form video app’s China-based parent company, ByteDance, will have in the newly formed entity TikTok Global.

President Trump suggested Monday that the deal could be in jeopardy if Oracle and Walmart — the two American companies involved in the proposal — do not have full control of the new TikTok.

“And if we find that they don’t have total control, then we’re not going to approve the deal,” he said during an appearance on “Fox & Friends.”

One of the next steps in the approval process includes a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

Without a term sheet being public, it is difficult to know the exact breakdown of the agreement, which was tentatively approved just before a Commerce Department order would have barred TikTok from appearing in U.S. app stores.

But from what is known, it appears that the deal falls far short of the full-on sale of TikTok to an American company that Trump originally called for in August.

Together, Oracle and Walmart will take only a 20 percent stake in the new company, TikTok said in a statement over the weekend.

According to ByteDance, other U.S.-based TikTok investors like Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic will stay on in the newly formed company, which has an estimated value of between $50 billion and $60 billion.

Even with the financial stakes of four U.S. companies, it is difficult to envision a scenario where ByteDance entirely removes itself from involvement in such a successful video app.

In a statement Monday, ByteDance emphasized it will remain in control of the new TikTok business and, crucially, the recommendation algorithm that makes the platform so popular.

That position was directly contradicted by Oracle executive vice president Ken Glueck, who said Monday that “Americans will be the majority and ByteDance will have no ownership in TikTok Global.”

The discrepancy may be explained by ByteDance’s ownership of TikTok Ltd., a business incorporated in the Cayman Islands that currently owns TikTok’s American operations.