Disney must bid for Sky even if Murdoch offer fails, watchdog rules

Posted April 13, 2018

Comcast Corporation, which announced on February 27th that it was considering making an offer for Sky, or any other third party, has acquired more than 50 per cent of the ordinary shares of Sky. Disney argued that owning Sky was not a major driver of its overall Fox deal - which includes buying Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox - and so that rule should not apply.

Disney will be forced to acquire all of Sky if 21st Century Fox's takeover of the United Kingdom pay-TV broadcaster is not complete prior to the Mouse House's takeover of the rival Hollywood studio.

If Comcast ends up acquiring Sky, Disney would not have to put forward a bid, the Takeover Panel said.

"Following the acquisition by Disney of Fox, Disney will be required to make a mandatory offer to the holders of ordinary shares in Sky".

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Fox now owns 39 percent, but has offered to take over the remaining 61 percent to take full control.

Meanwhile, previous year Disney agreed to buy Fox's entertainment assets including its stake in Sky, in a separate deal which is also subject to regulatory clearance.

Sky said it noted the panel ruling and advised shareholders to take no further action at this time. The country's antitrust regulator-The Competition and Markets Authority-in January provisionally ruled the Fox offer against the public interest on media plurality grounds.

Forcing Disney to offer the same price as Fox did in 2016 is likely to disappoint some Sky shareholders who were hoping for a higher bid.

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Any deal Disney is required to make for Sky would cost the same as Fox's bid for the operator and would only be required if Fox doesn't close its deal for Sky first.

Earlier in April, Fox proposed two remedies to address plurality concerns voiced by United Kingdom mergers regulator the Competition & Markets Authority.

However, it ensures a guaranteed bidder for Sky in the event that British regulators don't sign off the Fox takeover. It also said that Disney was interested in acquiring Sky News.

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