Published: Thu, March 01, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

Comcast Tops Fox's Offer to Buy British Broadcaster Sky

Comcast Tops Fox's Offer to Buy British Broadcaster Sky

If 21st Century Fox wished to counter Comcast's offer, it would likely need approval from Disney.

Brian L. Roberts, Comcast's chairman and CEO, said in a statement: "We think Sky is an outstanding company".

The comments came after U.S. cable company Comcast approached the United Kingdom group with a takeover offer, above the one which the pay-TV provider has already accepted by Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox.

If Comcast is successful in stealing Sky from under Rupert Murdoch's nose, it seems a London cab driver can take some of the credit.

"This is tanks on their lawn", said Crispin Odey, Murdoch's former son-in-law and founder of hedge fund manager Odey Asset Management, which owns a 0.8 percent stake in Sky and has been pushing for a higher offer.

Sky's share prices rose Tuesday, indicating Wall Street expects Murdoch to jack up his bid.

The move is aimed at consolidating ownership of the United Kingdom broadcasting network, with operations in Germany and Italy as well.

The surprise £22.1 billion swoop by Comcast not only potentially gazumps 21st Century Fox but also could complicate its agreed deal to sell most of its film, television and worldwide distribution assets to The Walt Disney Company.

Fox's bid for Sky is accompanied by a broader $52.4 billion takeover offer for Fox from Walt Disney Co. "Sky shares are now trading 2% above the Comcast offer price, so the market clearly smells the scent of some more action before this saga draws to a close". Sky shares jumped by a fifth on Tuesday morning and now trade nearly 7 percent above Comcast's bid.

Fox's bid to buy the 61 percent of Sky it does not already own has been slowed by regulatory problems in Britain.

The Sports section will also get a personal touch, integrating with the Sky Sports app to learn your favourite teams and what's most important to you.

"It's obviously a huge gauntlet that's been laid down to the Murdochs in relation to their pre-existing offer", said Alice Enders, head of research at Enders Analysis. This month, the company successfully won continued United Kingdom broadcast rights for England's Premier League soccer matches for 2019-2022. Higher U.S. interest rates tend to drive financial markets globally in part as many companies conduct business in the U.S.

Disney did not respond to a request for comment.

"We'd prefer 100 percent but it's not a condition", Roberts said on a conference call.

Comcast said early Monday that its offer values Sky at $31 billion, or £22 billion. Comcast was considering making another bid for Fox assets this month, according to a person familiar. It snapped up Murdoch's pay-TV groups across Europe in 2014 to offer a distribution platform across the continent that is now proving attractive to the big United States content owners.

Murdoch had been edging towards a deal for Sky in recent weeks, eight years after he first tried to buy the company.

They're both big players in TV and broadband, they have a giant library of shows and other content, each has a news division and they both sell mobile phone service.

The younger Roberts became Comcast's president in 1990 and CEO in 2002, having spent his whole career at the company.

"We were really terribly impressed", Roberts said.

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