12 July 2018
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
US cable operator Comcast has increased its offer for UK-based satellite and telecoms company Sky to £26 billion, just as the UK government has approved an offer from Rupert Murdoch to buy the 61% of Sky he doesn’t own.
But it’s more complicated than that, as Disney
has a merger agreement with Murdoch’s company,
21st Century Fox. Murdoch has to decide whether to increase his
existing bid for Sky.
Murdoch’s Fox increased its offer for Sky to
£14 a share just hours before Comcast came back with its
The two media giants – three with
Disney’s involvement – have been fighting
it out over control of Sky. Fox first offered £10.75 a
share back in December 2016. Comcast’s first offer
was £12.50, in April 2018, made after the Fox/Murdoch
offer was being reviewed by the UK government.
The auction is even more complex because Disney had previously
agreed to buy Fox’s entertainment assets for $71
billion, including Fox’s 39% stake in Sky. The
future of satellite and cable channel Sky News is crucial to
the deal, as the UK government wants to avoid further media
concentration. In particular it doesn’t want Sky
News to end up under the same management as the US channel Fox
Comcast – which owns the NBC television network and
the Universal movie group – said it has the support of
Sky’s independent committee of directors
– a group that excludes the Murdoch family.
The company said the "announcement further underscores
Comcast’s belief and its commitment to owning Sky.
Comcast has committed financing available to satisfy the full
cash consideration payable to Sky shareholders under the terms
of the acquisition."
The takeover battle will become more complex as the three
entities – Comcast, Disney and Fox – fight
over the assets. Comcast has said that if it wins Sky it will
continue to operate Sky News for 10 years, and it has also said
that it won’t publish newspapers in the UK.
The Murdoch family is the biggest shareholder in Fox, and the
Murdoch family is also the biggest shareholder in a separate
company that publishes The Times, the Sunday Times and the Sun
in the UK.