SoftBank eyes TikTok in India

  • 9 months ago
  • news
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NEW DELHI: SoftBank Group is exploring assembling a group of bidders for TikTok’s India assets and has been actively looking for local partners, according to people familiar with the matter.
Over the past month, the Japanese conglomerate, which owns a stake in Tik-Tok’s Chinese parent Byte-Dance, has held talks with the heads of Reliance Jio Infocomm and Bharti Airtel, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details are private. While discussions have fizzled since, Soft-Bank is still exploring options, according to the people.
Representatives for Soft-Bank, Reliance and Bharti Airtel declined to comment. A spokesperson for ByteDance didn’t immediately respond to requests. TikTok is considering selling its operations in several countries after local governments shut out the app, citing fears that sensitive user data was passing into the hands of the Chinese state. India has taken a particularly tough stance, banning several of China’s largest internet services in July, including TikTok. India was one of TikTok’s largest markets, with more than 200 million users.
In the US, President Donald Trump threatened to ban TikTok and then ordered ByteDance to sell its assets in the country because of national security concerns.
Despite holding only a minor stake in ByteDance, Soft-Bank has played a particularly active role in negotiations. In the US, the Japanese company brought in Walmart as the main investor in a group of bidders that also included Google parent Alphabet. But the consortium fell apart after the Trump administration insisted a US tech company lead the investments, one of the people said. Google said it is no longer interested, while Walmart joined a bid led by Microsoft. It’s unclear which group Soft-Bank is currently working with in the country. Centricus Asset Management, which is also a frequent adviser to Soft-Bank, teamed up with Triller in a bid for TikTok’s operations in the US and several other countries for $20 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter.
SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son has a long history of investing in India and a deep network of local business connections. Local startups backed by Son include Snapdeal, Ola Cabs and Oyo Rooms. In December, SoftBank poured $275 million into eyecare provider Lenskart, minting India’s latest unicorn. The company is also part of a solar power joint venture with Bharti Enterprises and Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology.

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