£26bn auction for the future of Sky set to begin

21 September 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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US media companies Comcast and 21st Century Fox will run a blind auction for ownership of European telecoms and broadcasting company Sky.

Bidding will start at 17:00 UK time tonight and the auction will end on Saturday evening, the UK’s Takeover Panel has decided. The current leading bid for the company is £26 billion.

The timing means Comcast, Fox and Sky’s leading executives will inevitably miss Friday evening’s second episode (pictured)  of Sky’s home-made serial, A Discovery of Witches, about vampires, witches and other unnatural creatures in Oxford.

Both Comcast and Fox have been competing for Sky, which provides programming, satellite services and broadband and mobile telecoms. Sky has operations in the UK and Ireland and also in Italy, Switzerland and Spain. It has 23 million customers, including six million broadband customers. Fox – which itself is likely to be taken over by Disney – wants the 61% of Sky it doesn’t already own.

The Takeover Panel announced: “The auction procedure will consist of a maximum of three rounds which will all take place on [Saturday] 22 September 2018.” However either party may make an increased offer before 17:00 on Friday.

Only cash bids in pounds will be acceptable, said the panel. The two bidders will not be allowed to publish details of their bids.

The panel itself will reveal the results “as soon as practicable following completion of the auction procedure” on Saturday evening.

“That announcement will set out the prices of the offers to be announced by each offeror following the conclusion of the auction procedure.”

It won’t be over then: the two rivals will have to make an announcement on Monday morning and the fat lady will finally sing on 11 October, “last day on which either offeror’s offer can become or can be declared unconditional as to acceptances”.

What happens if, after three rounds, both parties are bidding exactly the same? The Takeover Panel says: “It is possible” But it offers no suggestion as to what is done then.