21st Century Fox Raises Offer for Sky, Topping Comcast Bid

Currently Comcast’s $29 billion bid has been accepted by U.K. regulators without conditions

An offer of £24.5 billion tabled by 21st Century Fox yesterday to take control of Sky was trumped late last night by a counterbid from the rival Comcast in a further escalation of the takeover battle for the European pay-TV group. The new offer also bests Comcast's bid of £12.50 per share.

Sky shares traded at 14.85 pounds as of 8:14 a.m.in London.

The battle for Britain's leading pay-TV group reflects major shifts in the global entertainment industry as the world's biggest media giants battle one another for multibillion-dollar deals to be able to compete with Netflix and Amazon.

Fox agreed on June 20 to sell most of its assets - including its current 39% stake in Sky - to the Walt Disney company.

Disney's bid to buy out the majority of Fox's entertainment assets was the talk of the town past year, until the two companies hit a roadblock - an anti-competitive complaint by the Department of Justice.

Present in 23 million homes across Europe, Sky is a prized asset, with a slate of top sport and original drama content.

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Its offer represents an 82 percent premium to Sky's shares in 2016 before the takeover drama started, and a multiple of 21 times 2017 earnings per share. Of the assets he's seeking to acquire from Fox, Disney chief executive officer Bob Iger called Sky "a real crown jewel". According to some shareholders, that has set an implied higher floor for Sky's shares. Is this the deal that inspires more or scares off others?

Fox said early Wednesday morning, "As the founding shareholder of Sky, we have remained deeply committed to bringing these two organizations together to create a world-class business positioned to deliver the very best entertainment experiences well into the future".

"Disney's internal forecasts now, on the basis of the cash flows they've published for Sky, would value it at 16 pounds", he said. Fox wants a deal at 14 pounds a share.

"American consumers have benefitted from head-to-head competition between Disney and Fox's cable sports programming that ultimately has prevented cable television subscription prices from rising even higher", said Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general and head of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division.

Murdoch's company still faces significant regulatory battles in Britain, including the culture secretary's statement that Fox would have to sell Sky News to win government approval because of concerns about media plurality. News Corp., which is controlled by the Murdochs, withdrew its bid for Sky soon after. The opposition has not completely subsided despite the plan to spin off Sky News.

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