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Battle over broadcaster

Comcast gatecrashes Murdoch’s Sky takeover bid

Sky: now subject to a rival, and higher, bid

US broadcaster and cable company Comcast has made a last-ditch attempt to gatecrash 21st Century Fox’s takeover of Sky.

Comcast, which owns NBC and Universal Pictures, is offering £12.50 for each Sky share, valuing the satellite broadcaster at £22.1bn.

It represents a premium of about 16% to the current offer of £10.75 from the Rupert Murdoch controlled bidder.

Sky’s shares rose 18% on the announcement from Comcast.

21st Century Fox has already agreed an £18.5bn deal to buy the 61% of Sky it does not already own. However, the deal was made more complicated in December when Walt Disney agreed to buy the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s business, including its 39% Sky stake.

Comcast boss Brian Roberts said: “We think Sky is an outstanding company. It has 23 million customers, leading positions in the UK, Italy and Germany, and is a consistent innovator in its use of technology to deliver its customers a great experience.

“We think that Sky would be very valuable to us as we look to expand our presence internationally.

“We would like to own the whole of Sky and we will be looking to acquire over 50% of the Sky shares.”

He said the company would keep Sky’s UK headquarters at Osterley in Middlesex. He also said Comcast already had more than 1,300 staff in the UK working for its NBCUniversal business, and that NBC Universal had invested more than $1bn in film and TV production in the UK over the past three years.

In a reference to Brexit, he added: “The UK is and will remain a great place to do business. We already have a strong presence in London and Comcast intends to use Sky as a platform for our growth in Europe.

“We intend to maintain and enhance Sky’s business. Adding Sky to the Comcast family of businesses will increase our international revenues from 9% to 25%. We believe that there are significant opportunities for growth by combining these businesses.”

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould, said: “The plot has thickened at Sky as NBC and Universal owner Comcast trumps 21st Century Fox’s longstanding recommended takeover offer with a higher-priced proposal. 

“he company looks in high demand given that Disney is also in the mix after agreeing its own deal for Fox’s media assets including Sky. The interest in Sky reflects its leading market positions in the UK, German and Italian TV markets.

“Sky’s shares were already trading above Fox’s £10.75 per share bid level before news of Comcast’s £12.50 cash bid, suggesting the market expected either some movement on Fox’s existing offer or for a rival to emerge.

“The shares quickly traded above Comcast’s proposal as soon as the market opened today. That’s the market suggesting there may be a bid battle with Fox and/or Disney forced to come back with more. 

“Shareholders must now decide whether to sell out now, rather than wait for someone to make the next move, or hold on in hope for an even better deal.

“Comcast seems unlikely to face the same level of regulatory headaches as Fox, which is still awaiting approval on the deal more than a year since it was first agreed.”

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