Friday, 20 September, 2019

Comcast eclipses Rupert Murdoch's Fox with 30 billion-pound Sky bid

Welcome to a rare auctionMore Welcome to a rare auctionMore
Russell Knight | 23 September, 2018, 12:53

Comcast won a three-round auction for Sky on Saturday, with a £17.28-per-share deal that nearly certainly puts enough distance between it and rival bidder 21st Century Fox to win the battle for control of the European pay-TV heavyweight.

The company bid 17.28 pounds a share for control of the London-listed Sky, versus an offer of 15.67 pounds a share offer by Fox, the Takeover Panel said in a statement. Fox offered 15.67 ($20.47) per share.

Fox countered by raising its offer to £27.6billion, but was later overpowered by a higher Comcast offer.

Sky also brings Comcast sought-after TV content, including rights to Premier League English soccer.

'Sky is a wonderful company with a great platform, tremendous brand and accomplished management team.

It is a blow to 87-year-old media mogul Murdoch and the U.S. media and entertainment group that he controls, which already holds 39% of Sky and had been trying to take full ownership of the business since December 2016.

Pivotal Research Group's Brian Wieser said in a note it was likely Disney would sell the minority stake in Sky it would own following the Fox deal.

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Mr Wieser said Disney could "expand the company's investment in content intended for Hulu and its other streaming initiatives, and potentially it could look for ways to expand Hulu internationally" and would need to persuade Comcast to sell its 30 per cent stake in the streaming service.

Crucially for Comcast, Sky has a growing video-streaming business. Shareholders will then have until October 11 to accept an offer. Comcast estimates that owning Sky will create $500 million in synergies, partly through selling Sky content in the US and NBC programming in Europe. It would also represent a victory in Comcast's checkered history of dealmaking.

In July, Fox raised its offer to £24.5bn, but this was trumped by a £26bn bid from Comcast.

And the Disney-Fox alliance must still clear some regulatory hurdles. That may have been an astute move by Iger, who now gets more cash for Fox's 39% stake in Sky and a rival with less potential borrowing firepower to fund future growth. The loss of Sky partly stymies Iger's goal of establishing more direct ties to consumers and expanding his global business.

The payout for 87-year-old Murdoch's Fox would amount to 11.6 billion pounds if it tenders to Comcast, some consolation for his second failed attempt to grab the rest of the United Kingdom broadcaster.

Fox proposed remedying this by selling the rolling TV news channel to Disney should it win full control of Sky.

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