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After a Permanent Ban in India, Will Investors Ever Be Able to Buy a Stake in TikTok?

By Danny Vena, Jason Hall, and Brian Withers - Feb 3, 2021 at 7:00AM

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Some of the drama surrounding TikTok has faded from the news cycle, but it isn't over yet.

After a ban on TikTok was proposed by the Trump administration, the future of popular short-form video app went into limbo, at least in the United States. Oracle (ORCL 1.16%) and Walmart (WMT -0.61%) were reportedly taking 12.5% and 7.5% stakes, respectively, in TikTok Global, with the remainder being controlled by parent ByteDance. The drama reemerged late last month when India decided to permanently ban TikTok and a number of other Chinese apps.

In this video clip from Motley Fool Live, recorded on Jan. 27, "The Wrap" host Jason Hall and contributors Danny Vena and Brian Withers discuss the ongoing TikTok saga and whether investors will ever get a bite at the apple.

Jason Hall: TikTok is cutting our workers in India. India has essentially permanently banned the TikTok app, along with dozens of other Chinese apps. Here's the question. I'm going to pivot. Withers, you're not muted, so you're going to go first here. [laughs] Will investors ever get a chance to own a stake in TikTok, the social media platform?

Brian Withers: This is the wild speculation part of the show. I'm going to say, yes. They had a 60 Minutes interview with the CEO of the U.S. subsidiary of TikTok, and it's very much its own little separate business. Now, I don't know if you believe that they don't pass data to their parent and all kind of stuff, but the company is already set up. The TikTok U.S. subsidiary is already set up and it operates pretty much on its own. I think it wouldn't be that hard. I think the company realizes the popularity of its platform, and if they could find some way to profit from it by spinning it off, I think they might do it.

Hall: Yeah, I am interested to see if this ever floats back up. Danny Vena, what do you think?

Danny Vena: I followed this with bated breath for, geez, it must have been a couple of months.

Hall: It was, yeah.

Vena: Frankly, I think the Trump administration was pushing really hard to ban TikTok. What eventually happened was TikTok sued the Trump administration. When it went to the courts, the courts refused to side with the Trump administration, and said, "No, you can't ban them right now based on what you've submitted."

Well, the Trump administration is no longer a thing, and so now it's going to be a wait-and-see with what's going to happen with the Biden administration and whether or not they're going to take a hard line against these Chinese companies. I would say that, eventually, I think there will be a way for investors to get their hands on some TikTok. I think it's probably going to end up being, they're going to have to buy it on a foreign exchange, or they're going to have to buy shares in another company that acquires a stake in TikTok. I don't think it's going to be clean, but I do think the possibility is out there. When? That's another story.

Hall: Yeah, I think I agree a little bit with your sentiment. I would be surprised if TikTok or ByteDance, the parent company or, again, TikTok as a subsidiary, as it is in most of the countries that it operates in, IPO'd as a publicly traded stock on the U.S. exchange. I'd be stunned by that. My expectation would be if anything happens, it's going to be some majority stake that's bought, but everything that was going on over the summer, by some U.S. company or European company or something like that. We'll see. I'll tell you, these social media companies are cash cows. I think there's huge investor interest in it. There's no doubt about that.

Withers: I think three of us start a SPAC [special purpose acquisition company] and buy it.

Hall: There you go. We'll just name it the, [laughs] We're Going to Buy TikTok SPAC. That's what we'll just call it.

Vena: I got a better idea. Let's send an email to Chamath [Palihapitiya], and say, "Hey, dude. Buy out TikTok."

Withers: There you go.

Hall: He might already be doing it.

Vena: That would be hot SPAC of the year.

Jason Hall: Tim Sparks is suggesting that the ticker would just be W-R-A-P. It'd be the Wraps SPAC. There we go.

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