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Why I’m in Talks to Buy TikTok

(Bloomberg Opinion) — Dear investors readers,

In response to recent rumors, started by me, that I’m in talks to purchase the U.S. operations of TikTok, I’d like to clarify. I am indeed interested in buying the hip viral short-video service. I’d also like to fly to Mars, cure cancer, or climb Mount Everest. Just as with my bid for TikTok, I have no intention of doing so. 

However, I have “held talks” with TikTok. By which I mean I tweeted at them. They didn’t reply.

Despite the fact that I have no money, no operational experience, no management team and even this actual letter being satire, I believe that I now ought to be name-checked alongside Microsoft Corp., Twitter Inc., Reliance Industries Ltd. and Oracle Corp.

And while I am not American, I am fully qualified to own and operate TikTok’s U.S. business by virtue of me satisfying President Donald Trump’s key criteria: not being Chinese. 

My reasons for making this faux bid are as sound and logical as some of the real ones by my rival suitors, so hear me out.

First, I have the technical qualifications. Because I not only studied some Java but have even written code in C (malloc that, Microsoft), I am perfectly qualified to manage and analyze millions of lines of code to ensure no nefarious algorithms are embedded within. 

Having taken Andrew Ng’s “Machine Learning” class on Coursera, I am now fully adept at running an advanced artificial intelligence company. My ability to protect America’s data is evidenced by the fact that I use long passwords for my Hotmail account and have a four-digit PIN code sent by SMS whenever I log in. 

In addition, I am very interested in keeping financiers happy. By making this spurious bid, I can ingratiate myself with ByteDance Ltd.’s bankers. The appearance of a bidding war will help keep them relevant and justify their fees in what is otherwise a government-mandated fire sale.

I can also make my own bankers think I’m a real player, eager and willing to engage in mergers and acquisitions, as a way to get their fresh young recruits to work ridiculous hours at my beck and call to prepare long, detailed Powerpoints which I’ll never look at. Unfortunately, I don’t have any bankers at this time, but I do have a Bloomberg Terminal (seriously, bankers, MSG me). 

Now, let’s be frank.Here are some of the serious reasons why anyone would want to make a play for a business that’s entirely outside of their wheelhouse and makes no strategic sense.

“Spoiler” bidding is an entirely legitimate practice in the M&A world. Even if one were not entirely sincere about buying the target, pretending to be interested could push up the price that an actual rival will end up having to pay. If I can force Microsoft to fork out even $100 more for TikTok, then my job is done.

Getting a look inside this gargantuan purveyor of lip-sync videos and makeup tips would be valuable in itself. By knocking on the door, checkbook in hand, any wannabe bidders might expect that ByteDance will open up the books. That would allow the inquiring mind to understand how much money the Chinese company really has, with a view to later selling their own services at the highest price they can get away with. 

In addition, under the guise of due diligence, one might hope to be given access to TikTok’s source code, software stack, data and algorithms. This would better help me understand why teens are addicted and how I could make my boring cloud business sound hip, young and relevant. 

This column is not an offer to sell securities or the solicitation of an offer to buy securities. However, I do invite anyone tempted to make a play for TikTok to talk to me first, so that I can at least have a scoop on the next hat in the ring. I promise to take your bid as seriously as you take mine.I do not intend to provide further updates on this bid, though I’d love for TikTok to get back to me on Twitter (@tculpan). I’ll wait. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Tim Culpan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.

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