Comcast beats Fox in Sky auction with $US39b bid

23 September, 2018, 06:54 | Author: Regina Silva
  • Sky is at the centre of a bid battle between Comcast the world’s biggest entertainment company and Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox. Stock

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.

After three rounds of secret bidding on Friday and Saturday, Comcast offered the higher price of £17.28 (NZ$33.75) per share for Sky, the equivalent of almost £30 billion (NZ$58 billion). It bid £17.28 per Sky share.

Owning Sky will make Comcast the world's largest pay-TV operator with around 52 million customers. Deep-pocketed firms like Netflix and Amazon have eye-popping budgets and are pouring money into media production and streaming rights.

A representative for Fox declined to comment. Shareholders will then have until October 11 to accept an offer.

The payout for 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.

"Presumably both Disney and Comcast will find that it is in their mutual best interests to allow each party to consolidate as much of Hulu and Sky, respectively, as possible".

Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive of Comcast, coveted Sky to expand its global presence as growth slows in its core US market.

'This acquisition will allow us to quickly, efficiently and meaningfully increase our customer base and expand internationally.

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Comcast, which requires 50 percent plus one share of Sky's equity to win control, said it was also seeking to buy Sky shares in the market. However, Comcast would become the controlling owner if Sky shareholders approve the bid.

Sources familiar with the matter said Fox, Disney and Comcast had not been in discussions about the 39 percent stake.

Fox faced heavy scrutiny from the United Kingdom government and competition watchdogs over its Sky takeover plans, while Comcast's bid was cleared by regulators early in the process.

It is a blow to 87-year-old Murdoch and the USA media and entertainment group that he controls, which had been trying to take full ownership of Sky since December 2016.

The process has also been beset by regulatory issues amid concerns over media plurality and the degree of Mr Murdoch's influence over the United Kingdom media landscape.

Fox made a string of concessions to assuage those worries and land a company that serves 23 million households in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.

In December, Disney chief executive Bob Iger, described Sky as the "crown jewel" of the Fox assets in an interview with Bloomberg TV. "Sky has never stood still, and with Comcast our momentum will only increase", he said.

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