Comcast offers $31 billion for Sky, setting up showdown with Fox


U.S. cable giant Comcast Corp offered £22 billion (Dh113bn) for pay-TV group Sky Plc on Wednesday, beating an agreed takeover bid from Rupert Murdoch's Fox by 16 per cent.

Comcast announced its intention to launch a bid for Sky in February, gatecrashing 21st Century Fox's planned £18.5 billion takeover.

Its takeover play further complicates the Fox/Sky saga, with Walt Disney also recently being told by Britain's Takeover Panel that it must bid for the whole of Sky even if Rupert Murdoch's offer is blocked.

Fox first announced its 10.75 pound per share offer in December 2016 but the deal has been held up concerns about the influence Murdoch could wield over public opinion through owning all of the broadcaster as well a clutch of United Kingdom newspapers. Sky News is understood to lose around £40m per year.

"We are delighted to be formalizing our offer for Sky today", said CEO Brian Roberts.

But the United Kingdom competition watchdog has raised a host of concerns over the Fox acquisition, while since then, Walt Disney has also agreed to snap up a raft of Fox assets including the Sky 39 per cent stake.

Comcast (CMCSA) said Wednesday that adjusted first-quarter earnings were 62 cents a share, up 17% from a year ago, with revenue rising 11% to $22.79 billion, topping consensus estimates. According to a recent SEC filing, the family of 21Century Fox executives will make more than $206 million once the enormous Disney-Fox deal is completed and finalized.

And in a bid to head off any competition concerns, the group said it would vow not to acquire any majority stake in any United Kingdom newspapers for five years.

21st Century Fox said in a statement it "remains committed" to its December 2016 bid but added that it was "currently considering its options".

Sky is known in Europe for its live football (soccer in the US) broadcasts as well as for premium content such as HBO's "Game of Thrones" and in-house productions such as "Fortitude" and "Britannia".