Comcast beats Fox in Sky auction with $39B bid

A Sky remote

Comcast stands to receive some valuable technology assets from its Sky acquisition. Credit PA

Comcast is battling it out with Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox and its powerful soon-to-be owner Disney in a rare auction, which includes up to three rounds of bidding created to culminate in two final offers for Europe's biggest pay-TV broadcaster.

These offers must now be made official by both companies before the Sky board can make a recomendation.

Comcast's bid equated to £17.28 per share, beating Fox's of £15.67 per share. Then when we to the Sky store, we spent at least an hour going through every feature and comparing it to our own.

Comcast's victory in Saturday's 24-hour bidding war for Sky will give the United States media giant access to Sky's valuable streaming and advertising technology, key tools for the business as it battles USA technology giants including Netflix and Amazon.

Comcast operates a more integrated model in the United States which includes cable broadband, telephony and free to air television along certain parts of the East Coast.

Goldman Sachs is advising Fox on the deal, while Comcast has recruited Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Evercore and London boutique Robey Warshaw.

Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive of Comcast, said: 'This is a great day for Comcast. Sky board members agreed to recommend Comcast's offer to shareholders, who will have until October 11 to accept the offer.

Regulators eventually agreed that the sale could go through as long as Sky News was spun off in an effort to protect its editorial integrity.

Sky and its 23 million subscribers are attractive assets to USA media companies that want to expand their operations to Europe and bolster their defenses against an onslaught from Netflix and Amazon.

Sky also has original TV productions, such as the 1920s sex-and-crime saga "Babylon Berlin" and "Britannia", a period drama about the Roman conquest of Britain.

Netflix has relied on other companies' broadband networks to distribute its lavish in-house productions and expand its global subscriber base to 130 million, and its rivals are still looking for an effective response.

But by paying such a general price for a satellite television business like, which itself is prey to the disruptive forces of the video streaming services, Comcast looks to the increasing its exposure to a model already under threat. "Comcast found Sky attractive because it provides a foothold in Europe and will make it less dependent on the United States". It would also represent a victory in Comcast's chequered history of deal making.

The quick-fire auction marked a dramatic climax to a protracted transatlantic bidding battle waged since February, when Comcast gate-crashed Fox's takeover of Sky. While Comcast acquired NBCUniversal and DreamWorks Animation over the past decade, it failed in attempts to buy Disney in 2004, Time Warner Cable 2015 and Fox in July.

A couple of years ago Comcast could have bought Netflix for US$50 billion - a company that today is capitalised at more than US$150 billion. The loss of Sky partly stymies Disney CEO Bob Iger's goal of establishing more direct ties to consumers and expanding his worldwide business. An earlier attempt was thwarted in 2011 by a phone-tapping scandal at his United Kingdom newspaper business.

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