United Kingdom minister allows 21st Century Fox takeover of Sky


Fox's bid for Sky has been a hot political issue in Britain, where some politicians have pushed for closer examination of the Murdoch family following a series of scandals at the US cable news channel, Fox News.

The regulator again raised the possibility of "increased influence of the Murdoch Family Trust over public opinion and the UK's political agenda", should Fox win control of Sky News.

The announcement, from British Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, is good news for Rupert Murdoch's Hollywood studio and will now see it go head-to-head with rival Comcast for the prized pay-TV asset.

If the bid is cleared by the government, possibly requiring further undertakings, Murdoch will go against US rival Comcast in a battle to buy Sky.

Britain's culture secretary is set to offer his verdict on 21st Century Fox's 11.7 billion-pound bid ($16.4 billion) to buy the 61 percent of the United Kingdom satellite broadcaster Sky it doesn't already own.

Investors are clearly hoping for more: Sky shares rose on Tuesday to trade at £13.60 ($18.20).

Should Fox and the government not be able to agree on the required remedy, Hancock said he would be forced to reject the bid outright, although he conceded this was not his "preferred approach". Fox has since offered remedies to address those concerns, such as offering to preserve the editorial independence of Sky News or selling the channel to Disney.

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Meanwhile, Comcast has also stated that it is in the advanced stages of preparing a superior bid for the same assets, although no offer has so far emerged.

"We note that the Secretary of State agrees with this solution and has instructed officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to agree final undertakings that he would be prepared to accept and consult on within the two-week timeframe".

Hancock confirmed on Tuesday that he would not intervene in regards to Comcast, either on the grounds of broadcasting standards or on media plurality.

"We now look forward to engaging with DCMS and we are confident that we will reach a final decision clearing our transaction", Fox said in a statement.

The decision is a boost for Murdoch's second attempt to buy Sky, now a key part of a transcontinental contest for scale between Walt Disney Co. and Comcast.

The approval of both deals sets up the prospect of a bidding war for Sky, although the share price will tell you that the market has been expecting this for a little while.