Comcast ups offer for Sky to £26bn as battle with Fox and Disney goes on

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 £14.75 offer.

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 News.

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.

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