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Centricus, Triller Seek to Buy TikTok Assets for $20 Billion

Dinesh Nair

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

Investors led by London-based Centricus will partner with U.S.-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 U.S., Australia, New Zealand and India. The proposal would be made up of $10 billion in cash up front and $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 for TikTok assets in the U.S. and some other countries. A spokesperson for Triller didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

President Donald Trump this month threatened to ban the TikTok app in the U.S. and then ordered ByteDance sell its U.S. assets, citing national security concerns. Trump has issued an executive order with a mid-September deadline for TikTok to be sold or be barred in the U.S. A later order required ByteDance to sell TikTok’s U.S. assets within 90 days. The administration is also demanding that the buyer of TikTok’s U.S. 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 $100 billion Vision Fund, helping to raise money from the Middle East including Saudi Arabia. It also worked on SoftBank’s $3.3 billion takeover of Fortress Investment Group LLC.

Microsoft first emerged as a possible buyer for TikTok’s operations in the U.S. 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% 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 U.S. treasury secretary, served on Relativity’s board until May 2015 and also had run a lender that had made loans to the studio.

(Updates with Centricus comment in sixth paragraph. The spelling of TikTok was corrected in an earlier version of this story.)

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