Wednesday 12 December 2018

Comcast trumps Murdoch with €34bn offer to win control of Sky

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. Photo: Getty Images
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. Photo: Getty Images

Ben Martin and Paul Sandle

Comcast, the owner of NBC, has beaten Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox in the battle for Sky after offering £30.6bn (€34bn) in a dramatic auction to decide the fate of the pay-television group.

The US cable giant made a bid of £17.28 a share to take control of London-listed Sky, substantially ahead of Fox's £15.67-a-share offer.

Buying Sky will make the Philadelphia-based Comcast, which also owns Universal Pictures, the world's largest pay-TV operator with around 52 million customers.

Chairman and chief executive Brian Roberts has had his eye on Sky as a way to help counter declines in subscribers for traditional cable TV in its core US market as viewers switch to video-on-demand services such as Netflix.

"This is a great day for Comcast," he said. "It allows us to quickly and efficiently increase our customer base and expand internationally."

Comcast's knockout offer thwarted Mr Murdoch's long-held ambition to win full control of Sky, and is a setback for Disney, which would have likely been its ultimate owner.

Disney has agreed a separate $71bn deal to buy most of Fox's film and TV assets, including its existing 39pc stake in Sky, and would have taken full ownership after a successful Fox takeover.

Comcast believed it needed to deliver a knockout blow given that Fox's existing stake in Sky gave it a chance of victory if it was a close second to Comcast, two sources said.

Its final offer was more than double what Sky's share price was before Fox made its takeover approach in 2016. "It is a clear sign that legacy media companies are desperate for scale," said Richard Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG.


Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business