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Rupert Murdoch

Comcast beats Fox in Sky auction with US$39B bid

After three rounds of secret bidding, Comcast offered the higher price of £17.28 (US$22.58) per share for Sky, the equivalent of nearly £30 billion (US$39 billion)

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 September, 2018, 4:55am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 September, 2018, 6:27am

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

After three rounds of secret bidding on Friday and Saturday, Comcast offered the higher price of £17.28 (US$22.58) per share for Sky, the equivalent of nearly £30 billion (US$39 billion). Rival 21st Century Fox offered £15.67 (US20.47) per share.

Sky shareholders must now decide whether to sell their shares to Comcast. Comcast said it hoped to complete the sale by the end of October.

“Sky is a wonderful company with a great platform, tremendous brand and accomplished management team,” Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. “This acquisition will allow us to quickly, efficiently and meaningfully increase our customer base and expand internationally.”

Britain’s regulator, the Takeover Panel, set up the auction to reduce uncertainty for Sky after months of offers and counter-offers from the American media giants. Sky is Europe’s largest pay-television operator, with 22.5 million customers in seven countries and popular programming including English Premier League soccer and Game of Thrones.

Fox owns 39 per cent of Sky. It now must decide whether to sell its stake or remain a minority shareholder.

Fox had long been trying to acquire the 61 per cent of Sky it does not already own. Fox founder Rupert Murdoch’s last bid sank amid a 2011 phone-hacking scandal, in which journalists working for Murdoch newspapers were accused of gaining illegal access to the voicemail messages of crime victims, celebrities and members of the royal family.

Fox shareholders approve Disney’s US$71 billion deal

A bidding war emerged last December, when Comcast made an offer for Fox’s entertainment assets, which Walt Disney is in the process of buying for about US$71 billion.

Comcast eventually dropped out of that contest to focus on its acquisition of Sky.

British regulators organised the auction in part to ensure that Sky’s value did not erode during the long bidding process. The last time such an auction took place was in 2007, when Tata beat out CSN to buy Britain’s Corus, creating what at the time was one of the world’s top five steelmakers.