Rupert Murdoch's Fox cleared to go head-to-head with Comcast in $29 billion Sky takeover battle -- on one condition

  • Comcast’s bid to buy UK telecoms giant Sky for £22 billion approved by British government.
  • A similar bid from 21st Century Fox remains subject to approval, minister Matt Hancock said.
  • Hancock said the Fox bid could not be approved until it had agreed terms to divest its news brand, Sky News, from the core business.

LONDON – The British government on Tuesday gave the go ahead for Comcast to proceed in its bid to take over UK telecoms giant Sky in a £22 billion ($US29.4 billion) deal, and said that a similar bid from Fox would be approved subject to it fulfilling one key condition.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Britain’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock confirmed that Comcast’s bid for Sky does not raise public interest concerns, and will not be subject to an intervention from the government.

Hancock, however, said that a bid from 21st Century Fox can not be approved until the media giant has provided adequate plans for the divestment of Sky’s news product, Sky News, from its core business. Hancock said that if that condition is fulfilled, he would favour giving the deal the go-ahead as well.

Sky is known in Europe for its live football (soccer in the US) broadcasts as well as for premium content such as HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and in-house productions such as “Fortitude” and “Britannia.”

21st Century Fox first bid for Sky back in 2016, but has been subject to regulatory approval for some time, with concerns about Fox’s owners, the Murdoch family, having too much influence over the UK media playing a key role in an announcement from the UK’s competition watchdog that the deal would be “against the public interest.”

That’s because Sky owns Sky News, one of the UK’s biggest news brands. This would increase the Murdoch’s portfolio, which already includes The Times and The Sun, two of the country’s biggest selling newspapers.

Fox has already agreed on paper to sell its stake in Sky to Disney as part of a $US52.4 billion (£37.5 billion) package of film and TV assets. When the deal was announced, 21st Century Fox said it remained “committed to completing its proposed acquisition of the shares in Sky it does not own.”

Comcast made an attempt to hijack the Sky-Fox deal, bidding £22 billion in April. The bid represents a 16% premium on the latest offer from Fox, and led Sky’s board to remove its recommendation for investors to approve Fox’s bid.

Comcast, which owns TV networks such as E! and NBC, as well as Universal Pictures, first announced plans to make a bid in February. It said the deal represented a “strategic opportunity to acquire a leading content and distribution business in the UK and Europe.”

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