Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is preparing a bid for 21st Century Fox Inc. (NASDAQ:FOXA) in a move to top Walt Disney Co.’s (NYSE:DIS) US$52.4bn offer for Rupert Murdoch’s media business, another twist to the takeover saga.
In a statement following media reports, Comcast - the owner of broadcaster NBC Universal – confirmed it is in advanced stages of preparing a superior bid for Fox. It said: "Any offer for Fox would be all-cash and at a premium to the value of the current all-share offer from Disney."
"The structure and terms of any offer by Comcast, including with respect to both the spin-off of ‘New Fox’ and the regulatory risk provisions and the related termination fee, would be at least as favorable to Fox shareholders as the Disney offer," the cable operator added
Disney has agreed to buy Fox assets, including its film and TV studios and international pay-TV properties, but excluding the Fox News channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Broadcasting Company and certain other assets.
The new turn in the saga comes with Comcast having already trumped Fox with a £22mln takeover bid for European pay-TV channel Sky PLC (LON:SKY), which had previously agreed to an offer from Fox, its majority shareholder.
Last month Sky pulled its recommendation for Fox’s offer to buy the 61% stake in the broadcaster that it does not already own after Comcast the swoop, with Fox’s 18-month pursuit of the group still awaiting a decision from the UK government.
Britain’s culture secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday this week that Comcast’s bid for Sky is unlikely to be referred to the media regulator for a full investigation.
After receiving a UK Competition and Markets Authority’s report into the deal earlier this month, Hancock has said he will deliver his verdict on Fox’s bid for Sky by June 13.
In April, the UK takeover regulator ruled that Walt Disney must make an offer for the whole of Sky if it succeeds in buying Fox’s entertainment assets, which includes its 39% stake in the European pay-TV company.
The Takeover Panel also said then that Disney must match Fox's 1,075p a share takeover offer for the shares in Sky it does not already own.
In pre-market New York trading, Comcast shares were down 2% at US$31.82, Disney shares lost 0.9% at US$103.13, while Fox shares added 1.1% at US$38.16.
In London, Sky shares were off 0.9% at 1,351p.