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No mousing around as Disney offers to take Sky News

04 April 2018

Fox, which now owns just 39 per cent of Sky, expressed confidence either option would address the CMA's outstanding concerns.

21 Century Fox said that Disney has expressed an interest in acquiring Sky News and adding it to its portfolio of channels, a move that would not rely on Disney's completion of its planned acquisition of 21 Century Fox's TV and film assets.

Fox, which now owns 39% of Sky, in December 2016 launched a bid to take full control of the British company.

Rupert Murdoch ratcheted up the pressure on Britain to approve his $15 billion-plus bid for pay-TV group Sky by offering to sell or legally separate Sky News, aiming to head off objections the deal could give him too much political influence.

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Another twist in the tale came when America's Comcast, which owns NBC and Universal, unveiled a higher £22.5 billion offer for Sky in February, setting up a race between the two media empires as they both sought to get their hands on the company set up in 1989 by Mr Murdoch. Fox had previously proposed a separate editorial board to insulate Sky News from Murdoch's influence and in March sweetened the offer, proposing a 10-year funding guarantee for the U.K.'s oldest 24-hour news service.

Analysts Liberum Capital said the Fox remedies "should be adequate" to overcome the regulator's media plurality concerns.

"They know full well that it isn't a top priority of Disney to own Sky News".

Much of its decision to propose buying Sky News lies in a desire to eventually own Sky, which has 23 million customers and holds lucrative broadcast rights to the English Premier League and other professional soccer leagues. His readiness to buy Sky News therefore signals a clear commitment to owning Sky.

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"If the CMA were to accept at face value these assertions and be dissatisfied with enhanced remedies that are a direct and reasonable response to concerns it had raised with us, we believe that this would compromise the integrity of a system which is supposed to be objective, evidenced-based and grounded on the application of established legal principles", Fox said. Britain's Culture Secretary Matt Hancock will then issue his verdict.

Sky now trades higher than the Comcast proposal, indicating that investors are expecting a bidding war.

Fox said it has "worked diligently" with the CMA throughout the regulator's review of the deal.

But the proposal faces another challenge as United States broadcaster Comcast is mounting its own £22.1 billion takeover approach for Sky.

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No mousing around as Disney offers to take Sky News