James Murdoch has made his toughest statement yet on what could happen should British media regulators refuse News Corp’s bid to acquire the 61 per cent of BSkyB it does not own. He told delegates at Morgan Stanley’s annual media and telecoms conference in Barcelona that the UK government must decide whether it wants to risk “jeopardising an £8 billion (€9.37bn) investment in the UK” with a prolonged investigation. News Corp could even relocate some of its projects to “more welcoming” countries should the regulators decide against News Corp’s scheme.
Murdoch, who chairs BSkyB and also looks after News Corp’s European interests, issued a blunt statement, saying “From a policy perspective, the Government needs to assess the benefits of having a digital TV business that is a world leader centred in the UK marketplace, with all the things that brings, versus potentially jeopardising an £8 billion investment in the UK with a prolonged plurality process.”
James Murdoch said that it was “dramatically premature” to say anything about suggestions that the broadcaster would sell off its flagship Sky News operation in order to side-step arguments of media domination.
His comments show how determined News Corp is to see the acquisition move forward. Of course, there is still the problem of what BSkyB’s 61 per cent shareholders will do should the News Corp bid be passed. They are looking for at least £8 a share, while News Corp – to date – talks only of £7. Today (Nov 18) the price rose 4.5p to £7.27 suggesting the market still sees plenty of upside potential.