Comcast offers £22bn to snatch Sky from Rupert Murdoch

Comcast, which owns NBC and Universal Pictures, said it was offering £12.50 per share, significantly higher than the £10.75 per share agreed by Fox.

Comcast's announcement could ignite a bidding war among the USA giants hoping to expand their European operations with access to Sky's customer base.

Comcast, the owner of NBCUniversal, has made a surprise £22 billion, or $30.7 billion, bid for Sky. That was made on the assumption that Fox would buy out the rest of Sky, which has been described as the "crown jewel" in the Murdoch empire. It's also potentially a good way for Comcast to expand, given that it faces regulatory constraints to further growing its infrastructure business back home in the U.S. Its timing suggests that the owner of NBC Universal sees an opening to win over United Kingdom officials and investors.

21st Century Fox, which now owns 39% of Sky, submitted its proposal to take full control of the European pay-TV group in December 2016, but "the takeover has been repeatedly held up by regulatory concerns that Murdoch controls too much media in Britain", says Reuters.

"When a set of assets like 21st Century Fox's becomes available, it's our responsibility to evaluate if there's a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders", Comcast said at the time.

Sky shares rose to as high as 1,355 pence in London, topping both bids and the most since Fox's offer in December 2016. That may be because Mr. Roberts's real objective is to upset a $52 billion all-stock tie-up that Disney and Fox announced in December. "Sky shares are now trading 2 percent above the Comcast offer price, so the market clearly smells the scent of some more action before this saga draws to a close".

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Sky has its own entertainment assets, as well as sports.

The new twist comes after Britain's competition regulator provisionally ruled that Fox's offer was "not in the public interest". It is also not clear if Disney would want to end up being partners with Comcast, in the event that Comcast wins majority control of Sky and Disney ultimately has Fox's 39 percent stake. If Comcast successfully acquires Sky, it would almost double its more than 29 million subscriber base with an additional 23 million customers in Europe.

Disney's Iger declined to comment when asked about the Comcast offer during a trip to Paris.

Brian Roberts, the chairman and CEO of Comcast. The proposal is structured so that Comcast will be successful as long as it brings more than 50 percent of Sky shareholders to its side. We are confident that we will be able to receive the necessary regulatory approvals. Comcast still covets Fox's assets, Reuters reported earlier this month. Will Disney be content with acquiring Fox without Sky?

Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia, operates cable TV and internet services in the US besides owning TV channels and production studios. On a trip to the November with Dave Watson, head of Comcast Cable, Roberts suggested jumping in a taxi and going to a mall to get an in-store demo of Sky's products.

  • Rita Burton