Matt Hancock, UK DCMS Secretary told the UK Parliament he is government giving a conditional green light to 21st Century Fox’s bid for the 61 per cent share of Sky it does not already own, as well as to a rival bid from Comcast.
Hancock said that following reviews of the Fox bid by Ofcom and the antitrust Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), that if Fox agreed to divest Sky News in an acceptable manner, a remedy subject to consultation, the deal could proceed.
Hancock added he wanted to see a final agreement soon. “I agree with the CMA that divesting Sky News to Disney, [which has separately bid for Fox assets including Sky] as proposed by Fox, or to an alternative suitable buyer, with an agreement to ensure it is funded for at least ten years, is likely to be the most proportionate and effective remedy for the public interest concerns that have been identified.” He added that Fox has written to him to agree the CMA’s previously suggested terms for such a divestment.
Hancock said he had considered the Comcast and Sky bids separately. On Comcast he affirmed an earlier decision not to intervene and concluded the proposed merger does not pose public interest concerns.
The Fox bid was already approved by European authorities. The CMA said earlier this year that the Fox deal would concentrate too much media power in the hands of the Murdoch family and was not in the public interest. Ofcom expressed similar concerns, but said separately there were not concerns over the Murdoch’s as fit and proper owners.
Some opponents have vowed to continue fighting a takeover by Fox, including pushing for a judicial review of Ofcom’s earlier assessment of the bid, which they say is flawed.
Comcast has offered Sky shareholders a higher $31 billion offer for all of the company. Comcast has offered Sky stock holders £12.50 (€14.31]) a share versus the £10.75 per share from Fox. Sky withdrew its recommendation to shareholders to accept the Fox deal after Comcast weighed in.