Comcast beats Fox with $39 billion bid for European pay-TV giant Sky


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LOS ANGELES — Comcast has beaten 21st Century Fox in the high-stakes auction of European pay-TV giant Sky, coming out on top Saturday with a bid of $39 billion. The victory paves the way for the U.S. cable giant to put a leading offer to Sky shareholders and, if it’s accepted, to bolster significantly its international operations at a time of mega-consolidation in the industry and of rising global powerhouses such as Netflix.

Comcast, which owns the parent company of NBC News, NBCUniversal, bid $22.59 per Sky ordinary share versus Fox’s $20.49 offer, which valued Sky at $32 billion. Comcast outbid Fox in a quick-fire shootout overseen by the U.K. Takeover Panel, which had ordered the unusual auction to end the prolonged stalemate between the two rival suitors. Both offers will be put to shareholders, who have until Oct. 11 to vote on them.

The auction’s outcome is sweet revenge for Comcast and CEO Brian Roberts, who were beaten by Disney in the tussle earlier this year for Fox’s entertainment assets, including Fox’s 39 percent stake in Sky. Roberts has called a Sky a “great business” that would complement his own media conglomerate, which already owns NBCUniversal and British production companies Working Title and Carnival Films (“Downton Abbey”). More important, adding Sky to Comcast’s stable will, at a stroke, boost international revenue from 9 percent to 25 percent of Comcast’s overall takings.

In Sky, Comcast would net a cutting-edge pay-TV service that boasts 23 million paying subscribers across Europe, in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and Italy. Under CEO Jeremy Darroch, Sky has maintained its offering of premium soccer, and other sports; moved into producing original content for TV (“Riviera,” “Britannia”) and film; and developed state-of-the-art digital and technology products, such as SkyQ and the Now TV streaming service.



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