Evan Spiegel, the chief executive of Snap, has said that any US company will find TikTok “really challenging” to digest, playing down the idea that Snap had any interest in bidding for the viral video app’s US operations.
“For whoever purchases TikTok, it basically requires you to build the entire core technology from the ground up to support the service and to do so without any engineering talent . . . and without the core technology,” said Mr Spiegel, at the FT Weekend Festival.
He added that Snap typically preferred to acquire companies together with their engineers, a move that may not be possible with TikTok. “Typically if you buy a business, it comes with a really talented team and I think for us the team is usually everything,” said Mr Spiegel.
ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, has been ordered to sell the app’s US business by mid-November or face a ban from President Donald Trump, who has alleged the app poses a threat to national security. ByteDance has maintained that it does not share user data with the Chinese government.
“It’s not surprising to me that the United States government would be uncomfortable having large Chinese technology companies operate and collect a lot of user data here in the United States,” Mr Spiegel said.
“Certainly China doesn’t allow US companies to do that over there,” he said, adding that it was “obvious” that TikTok would attract criticism from US politicians and regulators “on the basis of reciprocity and free trade”.
Microsoft, in tandem with Walmart, and Oracle are viewed as the leading contenders to purchase TikTok’s operations in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But the sale process still faces several hurdles, including devising a solution for separating TikTok’s back-end technology from its parent company.
Over the weekend, Beijing further complicated the negotiations after it announced new export controls targeting “personalised information recommendation services based on data analysis” such as those used by ByteDance.
TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Separately on Thursday, Mr Spiegel took a less aggressive stance than the video game company Epic Games against Apple over the 30 per cent cut it takes from transactions in the App Store.
Epic has taken Apple to court after it removed the hit title Fortnite from the AppStore following attempts by the game developer to evade Apple’s payment mechanisms. Others including Facebook and Microsoft have criticised Apple for the practice.
Instead, Mr Spiegel said if Apple was taking “too high a rate” he was sure they would naturally “change and evolve” because it would “end up impacting Apple themselves”.