© REUTERS

The list of unlikely TikTok bidders grows longer by the day.

Walmart is the last company I would associate with a short-form video app popular with teens, but the retail giant has joined forces with Microsoft in trying to put together a deal, according to CNBC.

The company, which is set to launch a Walmart+ rival to Amazon, gave clues to its reasoning, saying TikTok’s integration of ecommerce and advertising “was a clear benefit to creators and users” and would “provide Walmart with an important way for us to reach and serve omnichannel customers as well as grow our third-party marketplace and advertising businesses”.

Last week, we broke the news that Oracle wanted to buy TikTok, with the boring business software group perhaps being attracted by what it could do with the data, or by just beating Microsoft. SoftBank entering the fray, as The Information reported on Wednesday, was far more predictable.

Whoever gets TikTok, its CEO has had enough. This FT scoop overnight revealed former Disney executive Kevin Mayer had quit after just two months, telling employees in a letter: “The role that I signed up for — including running TikTok globally — will look very different as a result of the US administration's action to push for a sell-off of the US business.”

On August 14, President Trump ordered Chinese parent company ByteDance to divest its US business within 90 days. TikTok sued his administration this week over an earlier order imposing a 45-day deadline on banning any transactions with the app, after the US president decried TikTok as a threat to the privacy of the millions of Americans who use it.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. Facebook warns of iOS 14 ad-mageddon
We listed IDFA earlier this month as one of several issues causing anger and anxiety among members of the Apple ecosystem and Facebook has now lashed out at the decision to make allowing tracking and ad targeting an opt-in decision for consumers in the iOS 14 operating system update this autumn. The social network warned its own testing pointed to a revenue drop of more than 50 per cent for app makers using its advertising system within their apps. Meanwhile, the FT’s editorial board says Apple needs to become more flexible with its App Store policies or risk regulatory intervention.

2. All the IPOs you can eat
Wall Street banks are poised to share at least $300m in fees from the blockbuster dual listing of Chinese payments company Ant Group, in what is likely to be the biggest windfall in a decade for bankers in Asia’s top financial hub. Kioxia Holdings, the memory chip business sold by Toshiba two years ago, will raise up to ¥378bn ($3.6bn) in Tokyo’s biggest stock market listing this year. The chief executive of Klarna has told the FT that a stock market flotation of Europe’s largest privately owned fintech is “getting closer”. The New York Stock Exchange has secured regulatory approval for its proposal to let companies raise capital through direct listings, opening the door to a rival to the traditional initial public offering.

3. All the M&A you can munch
RWS has agreed to pay £809m to buy the translation software company SDL in the UK’s largest tech deal this year. The all-share deal will create the world’s largest language services company. The German food ordering group Delivery Hero has acquired the Dubai-based groceries app InstaShop for $360m.

4. Cyber chief warns of splinternet
Prime minister Boris Johnson’s decision to bar China’s Huawei from the UK’s 5G mobile phone networks may well portend an east-west split in the architecture of the internet, according to the departing head of the UK National Cyber Security Centre.

5. Porsche steps up US plans to take on Tesla
The German carmaker will press ahead with the launch of new electric models in the US, despite sales in the country dropping by a fifth during the coronavirus crisis. The Taycan 4S has been on sale in Tesla’s home market since the start of the year and Porsche told the FT it would not postpone the launches of electric versions of the Macan sport utility vehicle, as well as further Taycan variants, including a cheaper base model.

A Porsche AG Taycan electric automobile sits on display as the luxury automaker celebrates its 70th anniversary in Stuttgart, Germany, on Friday, June 8, 2018. © Bloomberg

Forwarded from Sifted — the European start-up week

Europe has a new unicorn; Croatia’s Infobip, a messaging platform which you’ve likely used but probably never heard of, raised $200m from One Equity Partners at a billion-dollar valuation last month. Unlike most start-ups, Infobip is already profitable, counts some 750 banks and 650 mobile operators as clients, and tells Sifted it is hoping to go public within three years.

In other news, Germany’s healthcare sector is finally opening up to digital innovation. A sweeping new Digital Healthcare Act looks set to open up Europe’s largest healthcare market to start-ups — and one telemedicine firm, Sweden’s Kry, has a head start.

Elsewhere, an e-scooter operator has come up with a cunning plan to prevent its vehicles ending up in canals and rivers around cities, while several start-ups are tackling the taboo topic of sexual wellness and designing sex toys for men.

Tech tools — Amazon Halo

Fitbit has fresh competition. Two days after it announced its “advanced health smartwatch” sense, Amazon has entered the arena with the Halo Band. It comes with the Halo service — “a suite of AI-powered health features that provide actionable insights into overall wellness”. The band and 6 months of Halo membership have an initial price of just $65, suggesting Amazon is counting on revenues from continuing subscriptions.

The band contains an accelerometer, a temperature sensor, a heart rate monitor, two microphones, an LED indicator light, and a button to turn the microphones on or off for the voice tone feature The Verge says the lack of a screen “is the first indicator that Amazon is trying to carve out a niche for itself that’s focused a little less on sports and exercise and a little more on lifestyle changes. Alongside cardio, sleep, body fat, and voice tone tracking, a Halo subscription will offer a suite of “labs” developed by partners. They’re short challenges designed to improve your health habits — like meditation, improving your sleep habits, or starting up basic exercise routines”. US customers can request early access to Amazon Halo from today.

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