The UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport moved slightly closer today to making a decision on whether to ask the Competition and Markets Authority to review 21st Century Fox’s £11.6 billion ($14.6 billion) bid to acquire the 61% of Sky that it does not already own.
“The Secretary of State will now carefully consider that advice before making her decision on referral on the basis of all the evidence before her, and will do so as soon as is reasonably practicable,” the office says.
Details about her request, and Ofcom’s response, will be published “in due course,” it adds.
Last month, Bradley said she was “still minded” to refer the deal to the Competition and Markets Authority — but on concerns about its impact on media diversity, not Fox’s “commitment to broadcasting standards.”
The government has asked Ofcom to respond by today. That means a decision on whether the acquisition should be subjected to a full competition probe is likely to come after Parliament’s summer recess in September.
Fox declined to comment on today’s development.
But CEO James Murdoch and co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch have said that delays in approving the deal would suggest that the UK is not as “open for business” as it claims to be.
Competition reviews can take up to six months to complete, potentially putting a decision off until 2018. That could pose a problem for Fox: It’s on the hook to pay a £170 million ($219 million) dividend to Sky shareholders if the deal doesn’t close by the end of the year.
If the deal is scrapped, then Fox will have to pay Sky £200 million ($258 million).