Comcast outbids Fox with $39 billion offer for Sky in auction

LONDON (Reuters) – Comcast beat Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox in the battle for Sky after offering around 30 billion pounds ($39 billion) for the British broadcaster in a rare auction to decide the fate of the pay-television group.

U.S. cable giant Comcast bid 17.28 pounds a share for control of London-listed Sky, versus an offer of 15.67 pounds a share offer by Fox, the Takeover Panel said in a statement shortly after final bids were made on Saturday.

The two media titans faced off in a rare one-day auction that took three separate sealed rounds of bids to produce a victor. Comcast’s winning offer brings to a close a months-long battle to win the Sky, and the 23 million pay-tv subscribers in seven countries that make up its business.

Comcast’s final offer was significantly higher than its bid going into the auction of 14.75 pounds, and compares with Sky’s closing share price of 15.85 pounds on Friday.

It is a blow to 87-year-old media mogul Murdoch and the U.S. media and entertainment group that he controls, which already holds 39 percent of Sky and had been trying to take full ownership of the business since December 2016.

It is also a setback for U.S. entertainment giant Walt Disney, which agreed a separate $71 billion deal to buy the bulk of Fox’s film and TV assets, including the Sky stake, in June and would have taken ownership of the British broadcaster following a successful Fox takeover.

If Comcast’s winning offer is approved, it will own the 61% of Sky. Disney will need to decide whether it will sell it’s 39% stake to Comcast, or if it will remain a minority partner.

Sky is an attractive asset to both Comcast and Disney as they work to expand their international footprints. The British pay-TV business serves 23 million customers, mostly direct-broadcast-satellite subscribers, in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland.

It has a strong content portfolio, with exclusive rights through 2020 to run HBO shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld” across Europe and with the majority of Premier League TV rights and exclusive rights to the German Bundesliga.

($1 = 0.7648 pounds)

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