Comcast throws its hat in the ring for Sky

Walt Disney Co (DIS) Could Find Itself In Bidding War For Fox

"We think Sky is an outstanding company", Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. Comcast which owns NBC and Universal Pictures, offered 12.50 pounds per share, which was significantly higher than the 10.75 pounds per share agreed by Fox.

Fox has already proposed a deal to buy the remainder of Sky that it doesn't already own for a cost of £18.5 billion. Fox owns a 39 percent stake in the company.

The Competition and Markets Authority is now investigating Fox's takeover bid after provisionally declaring that any move toward full ownership of Sky "would not be in the public interest". An earlier bid from Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, since subsumed into 21 Century Fox, launched in June 2010, but withdrawn in July 2011 as the voice-mail hacking scandal at The Sun and News of the World newspapers blew up.

"Indeed the fact that Sky shares were already trading at 30p above Fox's offer price tells us the market was expecting an improved offer from somewhere".

Will the Comcast offer affect Disney's bid for Fox? "Yes, Sky is more than just a direct-to-home satellite TV distributor, but. well, let's face it, Sky is a direct-to-home satellite TV distributor".

Comcast's slim United Kingdom operations mean the bid should raise few competition concerns.

The deal would take Comcast's subscriber base over the 50-million mark, adding Sky's 23 million customers in Europe to Comcast's 29 million in the U.S. Sky shares surged on the news and were up more than 20% by noon London time, their highest level since 2000. The regulator had suggested spinning off Sky News and insulating it from Murdoch's influence might be one potential remedy.

Comcast is offering more per share compared with a bid from Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox for the 61% of Sky it does not yet own, according to details of the surprise announcement. "Comcast therefore does not believe that this Superior Cash Proposal should create any media plurality concerns in the United Kingdom".

Disney saw the Fox acquisition as a way to quickly bulk up to take on Netflix, which has been growing rapidly with strong sales in overseas markets.

It's Sky's technology that first lured Comcast.

Part of what makes Sky attractive to USA companies wishing to expand in Europe is that it is an established brand across several countries in the region, where people are often used to paying monthly fees for pay TV.

Sky's United Kingdom headquarters, employing 1,300 staff, would be maintained.

21st Century Fox and Sky have not yet given official responses to the Comcast interest. Mr. Roberts said the auction factored into Comcast's decision to go after Sky. Roberts' interest in the broadcaster firmed up after an hour-long demonstration of its flagship Sky Q TV product during a trip at the end of previous year.

The offer for Sky from 21 Century Fox was made in December 2016, but has been held up by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The UK government may also be looking for a way to defuse the political risks from the Fox bid, they added.

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