Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Bloomberg is reporting that TikTok-rival Triller and Centricus (a London-based global investment firm) are the latest suitors looking to buy TikTok’s US business with a $20 billion bid, joining Oracle and a recently combined Microsoft / Walmart effort to acquire the popular short-form video application.
Following Bloomberg’s report, things have gotten a little weird. A spokesperson for TikTok told Reuters it has not received an offer, or ever been contacted about a potential bid. They downplayed the idea to Bloomberg, too, replying “What’s Triller?” and calling a deal “preposterous.”
And yet, Triller went on the record to confirm a bid to The Verge, claiming that it made the bid directly to TikTok owner ByteDance and not to TikTok itself. Here’s a cheeky statement from Triller executive chairman Bobby Sarnevesht:
We submitted an offer directly to the chairman of bytedance through Centricus and have confirmation it was received. We didn’t make an offer to TikTok, they aren’t involved in this at all, We made an offer to Bytedance and are dealing directly with the chairman only. Either people multiple layers down aren’t aware of what is happening on the highest level or they may have their own agendas and aren’t happy about our offer coming in.
We’ve reached out to ByteDance to try to confirm the bid and are waiting for a reply. TikTok hasn’t commented on the Triller statement yet, but confirmed to The Verge that it had not received a bid itself. Centricus didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment, but it declined to comment to Bloomberg earlier.
As originally described by Bloomberg’s source, a Triller/Centricus offer would see Centricus pay TikTok parent company ByteDance $10 billion in cash upfront, and another $10 billion in shared profit for ownership over TikTok’s assets in the US, Australia, New Zealand, and India. Triller — which already operates a similar service to TikTok, and presumably would help Centricus actually run a social video application after the purchase — would have a minority stake in the venture.
TikTok’s fate has been up in the air ever since President Donald Trump issued an executive order demanding that its parent company ByteDance either sell or spin off the US portions of the company, citing national security concerns from the China-based company. (President Trump is apparently a bigger fan of Triller, with Trump opening an account on the service earlier in August.)
In the weeks since, multiple companies have expressed an interest in purchasing TikTok’s assets, with Microsoft as an early frontrunner, followed by enterprise software giant Oracle, both of which are still in active negotiations with ByteDance. Microsoft has since announced an unexpected partnership with Walmart to purchase TikTok’s assets. Twitter and Netflix have also reportedly had discussions over a potential purchase, although it’s not clear whether either of them are still in contention, while Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai has confirmed that his company isn’t in the running.
Update, 7:42 PM ET: Added Reuters report that suggests this bid has not been made.
Update: 8:10 PM ET: Updated with the current, messy state of confirmation as to whether Triller did or did not issue a bid.