Rupert Murdoch has regained the upper hand in the battle with an American TV giant to buy Sky.
Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox said this morning that it has secured a deal to buy Sky after increasing its offer to £24.5 billion, raising the stakes higher than rival bidder Comcast.
Fox says it is expecting to secure regulatory approval from Britain this week after initially striking a deal with Sky in December 2016.
The firm has upped its original offer to £14-per-share, from its earlier bid of £10.75p/s, after Comcast trumped that first deal with a £12.50p/s bid.
Fox claims it has secured the agreement of the independent committee of Sky for the deal.
Fox already partially owns Sky but is seeking the to purchase the 61% of the company it does not own.
The new offer works out at 12% higher than Comcast’s £22.1 billion cash bid, and around 30% more than it’s own original offer.
Among its assets, Comcast owns both Universal Pictures, the movie studio heavyweight and CNBC news network.
The Fox deal has struggled due to regulatory problems surrounding media plurality – essentially Rupert Murdoch owning too many UK media outlets.
The future of Sky
Comcast sees its advantage is that it will not spark concerns over media plurality because of its “minimal presence” in UK media, despite a “substantial” UK operation employing 1,300 staff,
Shadow digital, culture, media and sport secretary Tom Watson said: “The UK’s media plurality and Sky’s high broadcasting standards are at stake in this bidding process.
Sky News could eventually be shut down as part of Fox’s deal, whereas Comcast pledges to ensure the channel’s future.
Comcast appeared to have gained the upper hand with its bigger bid in February, and the UK competition watchdog found Fox’s deal to buy Sky was “not in the public interest”.
The Competition and Markets Authority suggested ways Fox could address its concerns, including spinning off Sky News, or “behavioural” changes to protect Sky News from direct influence from the Murdoch Family Trust.
Fox has offered to shield Sky News from Mr Murdoch’s influence and guarantee the existence of the news service for at least 10 years as part of a series of so-called “firewall remedies”.
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