A boy plays Tencent’s PUBG video game on his mobile phone © REUTERS/

First it was short videos, then it was messaging, now it’s games. The Trump administration’s concerns about how much China can learn from Americans’ online pursuits continue their less than leisurely expansion.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (Cfius), chaired by the Treasury Department, has sent letters to companies, including Epic Games and Riot Games, to inquire about their security protocols when handling personal data, according to Bloomberg. China’s Tencent owns League of Legends’ Riot and has a 40 per cent stake in Epic, publisher of the Fortnite game.

Lex says ordering an unwinding of Tencent’s US investments could mean huge disruptions. Unlike the ban on Tencent’s WeChat messaging app, which affects less than 1 per cent of its users, nearly a tenth of revenues from games would be threatened by US restrictions.

There could be bans on financial transactions in games or restrictions on US servers. Online games, which account for about a third of Tencent’s total sales, have been its main growth driver this year, recording 40 per cent sales growth in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, the ban on WeChat and ByteDance’s TikTok was confirmed on Friday by the commerce department and they will be removed from US app stores from Sunday. ByteDance has until November 12 to divest its interests in TikTok in the US, according to another executive order.

It has submitted a proposal with Oracle that would involve TikTok’s global business being spun out into a separate US company, with an all-American board and a security committee headed by a person with US government security clearances. The new company would initially be majority owned by ByteDance, but would look to list publicly in the US. Kevin Systrom, the founder of Instagram, has emerged as a candidate to run the restructured TikTok. Today’s Big Read has a blow-by-blow account of President Trump vs TikTok.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. SoftBank to sell last of telecoms assets
SoftBank has agreed to sell US mobile phone distributor Brightstar in its latest asset disposal, effectively ending the Japanese conglomerate’s status as a significant telecoms operator. The disposal would cement SoftBank’s transition into a global investor and asset manager following an agreement earlier this week to sell UK chip designer Arm to Nvidia for up to $40bn, and the recent sale of Sprint in the US as well as its domestic telecoms business.

2. Nvidia boss says UK promises will be legally watertight
In an FT interview, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang has promised it will commit to legally binding documents saying Arm’s HQ will remain in the UK following its sale by SoftBank — indicating the chipmaker will make the same commitment as the Japanese company when it first bought Arm in 2016. Richard Waters has a profile of Nvidia’s mercurial chief.

3. Unity pops on debut
Shares in Unity Software, which provides technology to video game developers, popped more than 30 per cent on its debut on Friday, topping $75 a share. Unity has sold 25m shares at the $52 it had set after marking the range initially at between $34 and $42. Richard Waters looks at cloud database company Snowflake’s spectacular IPO this week and says it could help Palantir achieve success with its direct listing next week.

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4. Google pulls Paytm punt
Google pulled Paytm, the app of India’s most valuable start-up, from its Play store today, after a cricket promotion breached its gambling policies. Paytm, a payments platform that is India’s answer to PayPal, is valued at $16bn and is backed by Alibaba’s payments arm Ant Group and SoftBank. In a blog post, Google reiterated its gambling policy, saying it did not allow “unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting”. Meanwhile, Apple said today it would launch the Apple Store online in India on September 23,

5. Life on Mars is better than Venus
Phosphine has been detected in Venus’s atmosphere, creating excitement that there may be life there, but our science commentator Anjana Ahuja reveals many experts are sceptical. It’s not the nicest place to live either — its surface, at about 460C, is hot enough to melt lead and the atmospheric pressure is high enough to crush a human.

Tech tools — Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

Apple announced a new iPad and iPad Air this week, but reviews were out today as the iPad Pro’s closest Android competitor went on sale. Tom’s Guide says the resemblance can be uncanny, with the machined aluminium design and strong speakers making the Tab S7 look and sound like the premium iPad. It loves the display and battery life, but says performance is not great. The 11in S7 starts at $649 and the 12.4in S7 Plus starts at $849.

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