By Echo Wang
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Triller Inc executive chairman Bobby Sarnevesht said on Friday that the short-video app had made a $20 billion offer with investment firm Centricus Asset Management Ltd for the assets of rival TikTok that China's ByteDance is seeking to a divest.
ByteDance and TikTok denied knowledge of the offer, raising questions over whether the proposed deal between two of the most popular social media apps in the United States represented a serious bid or was a publicity stunt.
ByteDance has been ordered by President Donald Trump to divest TikTok in the United States, amid security concerns over the personal data it handles.
Microsoft Corp and Oracle Corp are among the U.S. companies vying to acquire the assets of TikTok, which claims about 100 million monthly active users in the United States. The Chinese firm is expected to pick a bidder to enter into exclusive talks soon.
"We submitted an offer directly to the chairman of ByteDance through Centricus, and have confirmation it was received and is under consideration by him," Sarnevesht told Reuters.
Bloomberg News reported on the bid earlier on Friday.
A TikTok spokesman said Centricus and Triller had not contacted the company about an offer.
Sarnevesht said this was because TikTok was not involved in the talks, adding that Triller and Centricus were dealing directly with ByteDance chairman Zhang Yiming.
ByteDance, however, said it was also unaware of the offer from Triller and Centricus.
"The company has not had any conversations with them and we are unaware of any interest," ByteDance said in a statement.
The proposed $20 billion bid will be financed by Centricus, with Triller executives running TikTok should their bid prevail, according to a person familiar with the financial details, who sought anonymity.
It was not immediately clear, however, if Centricus, with $27 billion in assets according to its website, could muster the resources for such a bid.
The London-based firm did not respond to a request for comment.
"We understand our offer is upsetting to some TikTok U.S. executives, as it upsets a deal that may be more favorable to them and less favorable to the shareholders," Sarnevesht said in his statement.
"They are doing everything they can to discredit our offer and keep it from being seen as real."
Triller boasts 65 million monthly active users, versus TikTok's 100 million in the United States. Triller sought a $1.25 billion valuation in a private fundraising round this month.
While TikTok is best known for its anodyne videos of people dancing and having going viral among teenagers, U.S. officials have expressed concern that user information could be passed to China's communist government.
Trump, a prolific user of social media, joined Triller this month.
"We've gotten assurances from people close to the White House that this is something that the administration would favor," Sarnevesht said.
"All we need TikTok to do is to give us their user data and the content, and the Triller platform can handle it."
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(This story corrects paragraph 19 quote to say "close to", instead of "in").
(Reporting by Echo Wang in New York; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)