Comcast ups Sky bid to $34 billion, escalating battle with Rupert Murdoch

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The British government has cleared the way for 21st Century Fox's possible takeover of European pay-TV operator Sky - hours after rival Comcast topped its bid.

Disney's bid to buy out the majority of Fox's entertainment assets was the talk of the town past year, until the two companies hit a roadblock - an anti-competitive complaint by the Department of Justice. Murdoch has agreed to sell Fox's entertainment assets including its stake in Sky to Disney, though Comcast is weighing another counteroffer for the Fox portfolio.

Comcast believes finding such partners will not only allow it to argue that it can win antitrust approval for the Fox assets as easily as Disney, but will also boost its finances as its prepares to make a second all-cash offer later this month, the sources said.

"Today, 21CF and the Independent Committee of Sky are pleased to announce that they have reached agreement on an increased. cash offer", a statement said on Wednesday.

"We could be seeing a bidding prioritization by Comcast for Sky over Fox, perhaps due to the fact that Comcast cannot afford both, and has to choose its battles".

But Disney and Fox are determined to keep their deal together - Murdoch has favored Disney in negotiations over the sale of 21st Century Fox assets, including Fox's stake in Sky, to Disney.

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WSJ reports Comcast upped their offer for Sky, which is a price likely not to be topped, which means Comcast could walk away with Sky, while Disney gets the rest of Fox.

A successful acquisition of Sky would extend Comcast's reach Europe.

"Fox coming back in for Sky isn't a surprise in itself, but the fact the offer is slightly behind what some had anticipated brings another twist", said George Salmon, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"It's too low", Odey, a former son-in-law of Murdoch whose eponymous hedge fund is a Sky shareholder, said of the sweetened Fox offer.

At the same time, U.K. Secretary of State Jeremy Wright gave Fox the OK on its Sky deal, provided the company divests Sky News to either Disney or another company.

Sky's shares closed at £15.01 on Tuesday, suggesting shareholders think the bidding war will continue. News Corp., which is controlled by the Murdochs, withdrew its bid for Sky soon after.

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