Former US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin thinking about buying TikTok

SteveTok? TikMnuch?

On the heels of the US House of Representatives passing a TikTok ban law, former US Treasury secretary and private equity mogul Steve Mnuchin is apparently thinking about buying the platform.

Speaking to CNBC's pre-market team at Squawk Box, Mnuchin said he hoped the TikTok ban would pass in the Senate, forcing a sale of the platform to a US-based parent. 

"It's a great business and I'm going to put together a group to buy TikTok," Mnuchin told CNBC. Mnuchin didn't mention whether partners had been identified, or what phase the purchase was in.

The US House this week passed a bill that would force Chinese TikTok owner ByteDance to sell the app within six months, which Beijing's officials have called “unfair.” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the proposed American law was “at odds with the principles of fair competition and international trade rules,” though we note China has banned US-based Meta’s Facebook and Instagram.

China would also need to approve the sale of TikTok to a US entity, something analysts believe is unlikely to happen. “Any kind of divestiture and merger with another company would have to be approved by the Chinese government, who would probably reject that,” Albright Stonebridge associate partner Paul Triolo said this morning.

What's this fuss about?

The draft law, which passed in the House of Representatives yesterday by an overwhelming margin, is the latest attempt by the United States to shut the service down on its soil at least, with former President Trump trying and failing to do so during his administration. The reality TV tycoon recently came out against the latest bill, saying it would only give more power to Meta supremo Mark Zuckerberg.

TikTok, meanwhile, told staff after the vote to pass the bill in the House that it had no intention to change its data protection strategy in the US, telling employees in an internal memo viewed by Bloomberg that it believes it’s already doing the best it can to address America's security and privacy concerns about the app.

“We continue to believe that the best way to address concerns about national security is with transparent, US-based protection of US user data and systems with robust third-party monitoring, vetting and verification,” the memo reportedly said.

It’s not clear what the bill’s future in the Senate is - we have asked US officials to find out when the bill could be heard and put to a vote in the upper chamber - though TikTok said it plans to lobby senators not to pass the legislation.

“While we anticipated the outcome, I want to reemphasize that the Committee and the House votes are the beginning (not the end) of a long process," the TikTok memo added. ®

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