Rupert Murdoch’s long-running bid to take full control of Sky has taken another twist after US media giant Comcast formally launched a £22bn offer for the broadcaster, kick-starting a bidding war.
The media mogul’s 21st Century Fox had agreed to buy the 61% of Sky it does not already own in an offer worth about £19bn, but after news of the improved offer broke, Sky said it was withdrawing its recommendation for the Fox bid.
“Comcast is a daunting rival for Fox, with far greater financial firepower, yet the contest between Fox and Comcast has been complicated by a $52.4bn offer from Disney last year to swallow most of Fox, including its existing stake in Sky,” says CNN Money.
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Hopes that Comcast, the biggest US cable firm and owner of NBC and Universal Pictures, will spark a bidding war sent Sky shares rocketing up over 3%.
“The gloves are officially off,” says the BBC’s business editor Simon Jack. “The fight is already getting dirty, with teams of lawyers and PRs on both sides preparing briefing notes about each other’s previous misdemeanours, scandals and broken promises.”
Crucially, Comcast’s CEO Brian Roberts has pledged to address the regulatory concerns that have stalled the Fox offer.
He said Comcast would make “a series of important binding commitments which will underpin our future investment in Sky and the UK”. These include a promise to maintain investment in Sky News and preservation of its editorial independence - “issues that have become sticking points for the UK regulators scrutinising the Fox bid for Sky”, says the Financial Times.
However, says Jack, the result will be that “a US company - either Comcast or Disney - will end up owning Sky. Over decades of string-pulling and empire building, Rupert Murdoch has usually got what he wants. But as he tries to dismantle it (in the most financially advantageous way possible) - it's not all going his way.”
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