The recently installed Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, who took over from Matt Hancock earlier this week, has reviewed the process and has found that it is “scrupulously clear, fair and transparent,” paving the way for Rupert Murdoch’s Hollywood studio to follow through with a deal.
He said, “Having taken over as the Secretary of State with responsibility for media public interest cases I have reviewed the process regarding the proposed merger between 21st Century Fox (21CF) and Sky Plc (Sky). I am content that DCMS and the relevant parties have ensured a scrupulously clear, fair and transparent process and I can now therefore inform the House of the final decisions made by my predecessor as Secretary of State. These decisions were made in a quasi-judicial capacity.”
“The publication of the undertakings marks the final stage of the public interest consideration of this case. It is right that Ofcom, the CMA and my Department have taken such care in ensuring the bid is properly and effectively scrutinized. It is now a matter for the Sky shareholders to decide whether to accept 21CF’s bid.”
The move comes after Hancock last month urged Disney and 21st Century Fox to improve its terms, after the two companies offered a series of undertakings to protect the news broadcaster earlier this year.
He said that Disney would be restricted from selling Sky News for 15 years without the consent of the Secretary of State, would need to be committed to operating the service for 15 years, up from its offer of 10 years, and would need to increase Sky News’ budget to at least £100M per year. Finally, it would require a formal commitment from Disney to preserve the editorial independence of Sky News.
Fox noted in a two paragraph statement, “Therefore, following today’s approval by the Secretary of State… all regulatory pre-conditions to the Acquisition have now been satisfied or waived.”
The regulatory boost comes less than 24 hours after Comcast upped its offer for Sky, hours after 21st Century boosted its own bid. The NBC Universal owner put forward its new proposal at an implied value of $34 billion, or £26 billion at £14.75 per share.
Sky has welcomed the statement by the Culture Secretary. “Following a period of public consultation required under Schedule 10 of the Enterprise Act 2002, the Secretary of State has published final versions of the undertakings offered by 21CF and The Walt Disney Company, which have been accepted as addressing the concerns raised by the Competition and Markets Authority in respect of media plurality. Sky welcomes the Secretary of State’s comments that this now marks the final stage of the public interest consideration of this case. 21CF’s offer for Sky has now cleared its outstanding regulatory pre-conditions. This follows the satisfaction by Comcast on 15 June 2018 of its outstanding regulatory pre-conditions, meaning both offers for Sky are now capable of being put formally to Sky Shareholders,” it noted.
It’s been a busy week for Sky and it seems that all eyes remain on Osterley.