Comcast outbids 21st Century Fox for Sky

BIG DEAL Comcast’s bid of $22.58 per share for European broadcaster Sky topped 21st Century Fox’s offer of $20.47 after three rounds of secret bidding in an auction

Comcast outbids 21st Century Fox for Sky

The almost two-year battle for Sky has reshaped the global media-entertainment landscape and put Comcast in pole position to take on emerging online rivals.

Comcast Corp. topped 's 21st Century Fox Inc. with a knockout bid for Sky Plc, putting the United States cable giant on track to acquire Europe's largest satellite broadcaster in a deal that would redraw battle lines of the global media industry.

After three rounds of secret bidding on Friday and Saturday, Comcast offered the higher price of £17.28 (NZ$33.75) per share for Sky, the equivalent of almost £30 billion (NZ$58 billion).

Fox forced Roberts' hand by raising its bid during the auction under Iger's direction.

Comcast has emerged as the top bidder for European broadcaster Sky after a rare auction held by British regulators.

Chairman and chief executive Brian Roberts has had his eye on Sky as a way to help counter declines in subscribers for traditional cable TV in its core US market as viewers switch to video-on-demand services like Netflix (NFLX.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O).

Sky TV also packages mobile and broadband services provided by third parties but doesn't offer those services over its own satellite infrastructure. Sky shareholders will have to approve Comcast's offer. Investors have already expressed concerns about its M&A ambitions this year, sending its shares down more than 5%.

After three rounds of bidding behind closed doors, Comcast offered the higher price of 17.28 pounds ($22.58) per share, the equivalent of almost 30 billion pounds ($39 billion).

Fox is considering selling its 39 per cent stake in Sky to Comcast if Disney supports the move, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the deliberations are private.

But Sky shareholders still have the option of backing the Disney-Fox offer.

Comcast viewed Sky as a way to win a foothold in Europe and end its sole dependence on the United States. "It's a very bold price".

The emerging alliances means the coming years might be dominated by offerings from two traditional sources: Disney-Fox and Comcast-Sky. It was well above the 16.53-pound average estimate of a Bloomberg survey of 17 M&A/event-driven desks, equity analysts and fund managers.

"We couldn't be more excited by the opportunities in front of us".

A couple of years ago Comcast could have bought Netflix for US$50 billion - a company that today is capitalised at more than US$150 billion. With the Sky takeover, Comcast will become the biggest pay TV provider in the world, with around 52 million customers after adding Sky's 23 million subscribers.

Sky also has original TV productions, such as the 1920s sex-and-crime saga "Babylon Berlin" and "Britannia", a period drama about the Roman conquest of Britain.

What sort of business is Comcast?

It would also represent a victory in Comcast's checkered history of dealmaking. While Comcast acquired NBCUniversal and DreamWorks Animation over the past decade, it failed in attempts to buy Disney in 2004, Time Warner Cable in 2015 and Fox in July.

That deal will bring Disney franchises such as the X-Men and hit shows like The Simpsons. The loss of Sky partly stymies Disney CEO Bob Iger's goal of establishing more direct ties to consumers and expanding his worldwide business.

Both companies were vying for 61% control of Sky. The first was thwarted in 2011 by a phone-tapping scandal at his United Kingdom newspaper business.

Philadelphia-based Comcast won a 24-hour auction conducted on Saturday.


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