Microsoft CEO says failed TikTok deal 'strangest thing I've worked on'


Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft, gestures as he attends Microsoft's 'Young Innovators' Summit' in New Delhi, India February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis/Files

(Reuters) -Microsoft Corp's near-acquisition of social media app TikTok last year was the "strangest thing I've ever worked on," Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said on Monday.

TikTok had been ordered by then-U.S. President Donald Trump to separate its U.S. version from Chinese parent ByteDance because of national security concerns about the collection of U.S. users' data. Microsoft in August 2020 began talks on the proposed acquisition but the deal collapsed by September.

Trump's divestment push ended by the time he left office in January and no potential suitor ending up acquiring TikTok.

Speaking at the Code Conference in Beverly Hills, California, Nadella said he was looking forward to bringing Microsoft's security, child safety and cloud expertise to TikTok.

"It's unbelievable," Nadella said of the experience during an on-stage interview. "I learned so many things about so much and so many people. First of all, TikTok came to us. We didn't go to TikTok."

"TikTok was caught in between a lot of things happening across two capitals," Nadella continued. "President Trump had a particular point of view of what he was trying to get done there, and then it just dropped off. The [U.S. government] had a particular set of requirements and then it just disappeared."

Nadella said what attracted ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming to Microsoft was the U.S. company's services related to content moderation and child safety, developed through products included in Xbox video gaming tools and on business social network LinkedIn.

ByteDance did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nadella said he has no idea whether the U.S. is still pushing for a deal under President Joe Biden. The Biden administration has said it is reviewing the national security concerns https://www.reuters.com/business/retail-consumer/us-asks-court-dismiss-government-appeal-tiktok-ruling-2021-07-12.

"At this point, I'm happy with what I have," Nadella said.

He also expressed support for greater government regulation of cryptocurrency rules, which could stifle ransomware attacks since the ransoms often flow through opaque systems.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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