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

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The owner of Walt Disney Studios has made a $66bn (£49bn) bid to take over 21st Century Fox, which owns a 39% stake in Sky.

Disney will have 28 days from the completion of its $66B acquisition of Fox to make a £10.25 ($US15) offer for all the shares of Sky if Fox's own $15.7B takeover of Sky is not complete by then or if Comcast's rival offer has not been accepted.

The UK Takeover Panel ruled that the Walt Disney Co would have to make a mandatory offer for Sky PLC after completing its proposed USD60.00 billion takeover of most the assets of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, which now owns 39% of the pay-TV operator and has been trying to acquire the remainder. Comcast said on February 27 that it was considering making an offer of GBP12.50 a share for the whole of Sky.

Shares in Sky were trading marginally lower at 1,310.50 pence Thursday morning in London.

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The Murdoch family, which controls Fox, wants to consolidate their hold on Sky as traditional media firms, faced with new competitors such as Netflix and Amazon, look to combine content creation and distribution channels. In January, the United Kingdom competition watchdog ruled that the deal would be against public interest on media plurality grounds and would give too much control to the Murdoch family, which controls Fox.

Sky said it noted the panel ruling and advised shareholders to take no further action at this time.

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.

In the meantime, Disney agreed to buy Fox assets, including its stake in Sky, in a separate deal, which is subject to regulatory clearance.

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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. However, Fox has proposed remedies to allay the regulators' concerns.

Fox has been trying to buy the remaining stake in Sky but has faced regulatory hurdles in completing the deal.

It is also not clear how Disney properties might benefit.

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