Comcast tops Disney $65bn offer for Fox
NEW ROUND OF BIDDING FOR PRIZED ASSET
COMCAST has offered $65 billion (Bt2 trillion) for key film and television assets of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, topping an offer from Walt Disney Co for a deal that could create a dominant media-entertainment power.
The move by Comcast, which is the largest US cable provider and also owns the NBCUniversal media group, opens up a new round of competition for the prized assets being shed by the Murdoch family empire.
The deal, if approved, would merge Comcast-owned Universal Studios and the NBC television network with Hollywood rival 20th Century Fox, Fox’s cable entertainment networks and international TV businesses.
“These are highly strategic and complementary businesses and we are in our minds the right buyer,” said Comcast chairman and chief executive Brian Roberts.
Roberts said Murdoch had built “one of the world’s great media and entertainment companies,” and that its history is similar to that of Comcast’s.
With the deal, Roberts said Comcast would stay on track “to build the entertainment company of the future.”
Roberts said the all-cash bid is nearly 20 per cent richer than the $52 billion stock offer from Disney, and said Comcast would match the Disney offer of a $2.5 billion fee if the deal fails to win regulatory approval.
“We are highly confident in our ability to finance the transaction, and our offer includes no financing-related conditions,” Comcast said in a letter to Rupert Murdoch and his sons Lachlan and James.
The statement pointed out that Comcast and Fox had been in talks before the Murdochs reached the deal with Disney, which is being submitted for a shareholder vote on July 10.
The new offer is likely to prompt a response from Disney, and force the Murdochs to review their position on the tie-up with Disney, which owns the ABC television networks ESPN and is a major Hollywood player.
The news comes a day after a federal judge approved a massive $85 billion takeover by telecom-broadband giant AT&T or media-entertainment conglomerate Time Warner that could reshape the media and communications landscape.
The court approval ended a heated antitrust battle, and suggested Comcast would be able to clear any regulatory hurdles to a deal with Fox.
Comcast said any antitrust concerns should be eased by the court ruling on AT&T and that its offer “should be as or more likely to receive international approvals, given our relatively small presence outside the US”.
“We believe yesterday’s decision in the AT&T case supports our confidence,” Comcast chief financial officer Mike Cavanagh said on the conference call.
The deal became possible when Rupert Murdoch, 87, and his sons decided to slim down the media empire, leaving them with a “New Fox” that includes the Fox News Channel, the Fox broadcast network and sports cable operations.
Comcast if successful would be able to expand beyond US borders to new markets in Europe and India.