Fox increases bid for Sky to £14 per share in battle with Comcast
Media giant 21st Century Fox today upped the stakes in a battle for control of Sky by increasing its bid for the European pay-television giant, in which it already has a significant stake.
The offer values UK-based Sky at £24.5 billion ($32.5 billion).
Fox, which is headed up by Rupert Murdoch (pictured), is now prepared to pay £14 per share, nearly a third more than the £10.75 per share if initially offered 18 months ago, and in excess of the bid of £12.50 per share from US media giant Comcast.
However, Comcast, which owns US national network NBC, is widely expected to increase its offer, from the £22 billion tabled in April, by a deadline of the end of this week.
Fox, which has a 39-per-cent stake in Sky, is awaiting UK government clearance to buy the remainder of the company, with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport set to issue its decision in the coming days.
This comes after Jeremy Wright was this week appointed as culture secretary, succeeding Matt Hancock, the new health minister, in a cabinet reshuffle.
Hancock previously declared that, because of concerns over Murdoch’s ownership of various UK media outlets, any deal was conditional on Fox selling the Sky News TV channel and underwriting its funding for the next 15 years.
Conversely, Hancock stated that Comcast’s offer would not require regulatory approval in the UK.
Sky has a total of 22.9 million subscribers, and a variety of premium sports rights, in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.
The battle is taking place against the backdrop of a high-stakes contest between Disney, another US media giant, and Comcast for the majority of the assets of Fox, including its 39-per-cent stake in Sky.
Last month, Disney, which has offered to buy Sky News from Murdoch in order to help him win approval for the Sky takeover, increased its offer to $71.3 billion. Comcast had earlier raised its bid to $65 billion, and is expected to submit a new offer by the end of this month.
Disney and Comcast are both prepared to sell off Fox’s regional sports networks in USA, valued at up to $20 billion, in order to gain US regulatory approval for their prospective deals.