Comcast fires new salvo in £26bn battle for Sky

Mai Fyfield is viewed as one of the main architects of Sky's success

United States media giant Comcast has raised its offer to buy Sky to £14.75 per share - just hours after 21st Century Fox increased its own offer to £14.

Disney secured conditional US approval to buy the assets last month, giving it an edge over Comcast's bid. Also, in the event that the Disney transaction does not complete due to the failure to obtain regulatory approvals or in certain other limited circumstances, Disney has agreed to reimburse 21CF for an amount equal to the difference between the cash consideration of £14 and £13 for each share of Sky purchased by 21CF pursuant to the increased 21CF offer, plus any interest and fees on such amount.

A top Sky shareholder told Reuters that Comcast is expected to respond with a higher offer for the company. But Fox's move Wednesday shows its own determination to control all of Sky - a long-cherished goal of Rupert Murdoch's. Topping Comcast's 12.50 pounds a share. Sky's shares closed at 15.01 pounds on Tuesday, meaning shareholders may also not like the price.

Sky's independent committee said Wednesday Fox's new bid "represents a substantial increase in value relative to the Comcast offer", and it will "unanimously recommend" the offer to Sky shareholders, according to the Financial Times.

The battle for Sky between Fox and Comcast is playing out against a larger bidding war between Comcast and Disney for a chunk of Fox's entertainment assets.

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The 21st Century Fox logo is displayed on the side of a building in midtown Manhattan in NY, U.S., February 27, 2018.

One hedge fund manager with a stake in Sky welcomed that pledge as a sign that Disney backed Fox in the battle.

"American consumers have benefitted from head-to-head competition between Disney and Fox's cable sports programming that ultimately has prevented cable television subscription prices from rising even higher", said Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general and head of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division.

"Fox coming back in for Sky isn't a surprise in itself, but the fact the offer is slightly behind what some had anticipated brings another twist", said George Salmon, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Fox first went after the 61% of Sky it doesn't already own in December 2016, offering £10.75 per share, but was held up over concerns that the tie-up would give Murdoch too much influence over Britain's media. The opposition has not completely subsided despite the plan to spin off Sky News.

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