Cable giant Comcast outbid 21st Century Fox and the Walt Disney Co. for Sky Television by offering almost $40 billion for the satellite-TV service that boasts 23 million customers in five European countries.
After three rounds of secret bidding on Friday and Saturday, Comcast offered the higher price of £17.28 (NZ$33.75) per share for Sky, the equivalent of almost £30 billion (NZ$58 billion). Yesterday saw Murdoch's Fox, and United States cable-TV giant Comcast, counter-bidding.
Comcast's final offer was significantly higher than its bid going into the auction of £14.75, and compares with Sky's closing share price of £15.85 yesterday.
Sky also brings Comcast sought-after TV content, including rights to Premier League English soccer.
Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive of Comcast, coveted Sky to expand its worldwide presence as growth slows in its core USA market.
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21st Century Fox, soon to be owned by The Walt Disney Company, now owns the other 39% of Sky. Comcast stock fell 7.4% on the day the company's interest in Sky first became known in late February, with Wall Street surprised by Comcast's sudden focus on global distribution.
"We now encourage Sky shareholders to accept our offer, which we look forward to completing before the end of October 2018". It has been boosting its investment in original TV productions such as 1920s sex-and-crime saga "Babylon Berlin" and "Britannia", a period drama about the Roman conquest of Britain. Roberts has said he was "terribly impressed" with Sky's market-leading Q box platform, which is also a rich source of data on customer viewing behavior. Comcast estimates that owning Sky will create $500 million in synergies, partly through selling Sky content in the USA and NBC programming in Europe. It would also represent a victory in Comcast's chequered history of dealmaking.
In July, Fox raised its offer to £24.5bn, but this was trumped by a £26bn bid from Comcast.
Fox forced Roberts' hand by raising its bid during the auction under Iger's direction. The winning bid by Comcast values the 61% share of the company up for grabs at $40 billion. "In our view, Disney will become a much more complicated company for the Street to analyze upon closure of the Fox transaction, but becoming a de-factor joint venture partner on Sky with Comcast complicates the situation even further, in our opinion".
A bidding war emerged last December, when Comcast made an offer for Fox's entertainment assets, which Walt Disney is in the process of buying for about US$71 billion.