Microsoft is in talks to buy the popular social media app TikTok, reports claim, as US president Donald Trump prepares to order its Chinese parent company to sell it.
The move would mark the latest attack on Chinese firms by the Trump administration, which says companies including TikTok owner ByteDance and hardware giant Huawei are a threat to American national security.
The US government has also said it might ban the app, which has millions of American users and is particularly popular among teenagers, but has come under fire for its security practices and concerns that its data could be exploited by the Chinese government.
On Friday, Trump told reporters for Bloomberg, which first reported the potential order, that he was still considering banning the app but was also exploring "a lot of alternatives".
In June, India banned the app as well as a host of other Chinese products, part of escalating tensions between the two countries.
TikTok's international growth began when Beijing-based media and entertainment giant ByteDance bought Musical.ly, a Chinese company which had US operations, in 2017, and merged it with its own app the following year.
Last year it was the world's second-most downloaded app, behind Facebook's WhatsApp.
Microsoft declined to comment.
If Trump were to force through a sale, it is expected it would come through the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which has ordered companies including the dating app Grindr to be sold by its Chinese owners.
ByteDance's US investors, which include several large venture capital firms, are believed to have discussed buying out TikTok's US operations.
Buying TikTok would almost certainly be Microsoft's biggest acquisition to date. It paid US$26 billion (NZ$39b) for LinkedIn in 2016.