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Ofcom raises concerns over BSkyB bid

December 16, 2010

From Colin Mann in London

UK media regulator Ofcom has written to News Corporation raising a number of issues relating to the media group’s proposed acquisition of the 60.1 per cent of BSkyB it doesn’t already own, according to UK media reports.

The document, known as an issues statement, sets out concerns raised by interested parties, including commercial rivals, during a consultation period and invites News Corp to comment on them. Ofcom is looking at the bid following a request by Vince Cable, the business secretary, to determine whether it could impact on media plurality. News Corp has to respond before the Christmas break.

News Corp offered 700p (€0.823) a share for the remaining stake, valuing the whole company at £12.3 billion, but the bid was rejected by the broadcaster’s independent directors, who said they would not consider recommending to shareholders anything less than 800p a share

Nevertheless, the two parties agreed that no financial aspects of the bid would be addressed until they had co-operated to overcome regulatory hurdles, involving Ofcom’s plurality review and a European Commission investigation of the competition aspects of the deal.

If the commission decided there were wider issues that needed investigation, the process could enter a long second-phase process. A decision on a possible second-phase review will be made by December 21. It is understood that Ofcom staff, headed by Chief Executive Ed Richards, will work over the Christmas break to consider News Corp’s responses. It must submit its report to Cable by December 31.

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