Comcast Makes $31B Offer To Buy Euro Pay Giant Sky From Under The Nose Of Fox


Comcast has made a $31B offer to acquire European satellite pay-TV giant Sky from under the noses of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

The cable giant, which owns NBC Universal, has made a bid of £12.50, which it says is a 16% premium on Fox’s bid to buy the 61% in Sky that it does not currently own.

“We think Sky is an outstanding company,” said Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation. “It has 23 million customers and leading positions in the UK, Italy, and Germany. Sky has been a consistent innovator in its use of technology to deliver a fantastic viewing experience and has a proud record of investment in news and programming. It has great people and a very strong and capable management team.”

Sky offers pay-TV services across Europe including the UK, Italy and Germany. Last month, it saw pre-tax profits rise by 28% and revenue grow by 5% over the last six months of 2017 as it continues its significant content drive, which will see it launch over 50 original TV series across eight genres in 2018.

Comcast said that it believes that a deal would help it boost its presence in London, where it operates a number of channels, including local versions of E!, Universal Channel and Syfy as well as SVOD service Hayu. It also operates a number of production companies under the NBC Universal International Studios including Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films, Made In Chelsea producer Monkey and joint ventures with Working Title and David Heyman.

“Comcast intends to use Sky as a platform for growth in Europe. We already have a strong presence in London through our NBC Universal international operations, and we intend to maintain Sky’s UK headquarters. Adding Sky to the Comcast family of businesses will increase our international revenues from 9% to 25% of Company revenues,” he added.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Comcast was contemplating a renewed bid for 21st Century Fox assets after Fox allegedly initially declined a higher bid from Comcast because of concerns that anti-trust implications would tie-up any deal’s conclusion. The assets for the deal were thought to have included the Twentieth Century Fox movie and TV studio, some US cable network and its international pay TV properties.

However, it seems that Comcast has decided to zero in on the international pay properties. It’s not clear whether Comcast’s bid for Sky would face as much regulatory scrutiny as the Fox deal. While it operates news CNBC International and has an NBC News team based in London, it’s unlikely that it will come under the same spotlight as the Fox bid, which faces issues with the Murdoch family. Last month, British regulator the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) provisionally ruled that Fox’s takeover raised plurality concerns surrounding the Murdoch family, leading to Fox to offering a number of “firewall remedies” to help the deal through.

Fox has regularly stated that it hopes its $15.7B takeover of Sky would be closed by June 30, 2018 and that the CMA and Culture Secretary Matt Hancock would approve the transaction. Comcast’s last-minute offer makes this look less likely.

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