It’s all clear: British Secretary for Digital, Culture and Media, Matt Hancock, announced that he had cleared Comcast’s £22bn bid for all of Sky. Picture: REUTERS
It’s all clear: British Secretary for Digital, Culture and Media, Matt Hancock, announced that he had cleared Comcast’s £22bn bid for all of Sky. Picture: REUTERS

London — Britain gave the edge on Tuesday to US cable giant Comcast in a multibillion-dollar takeover battle with Rupert Murdoch’s entertainment titan 21st Century Fox for the pan-European TV group Sky.

Culture secretary Matt Hancock announced that he has cleared Comcast’s £22bn bid for all of Sky, setting the stage for a bidding war.

Sky, which is best known for its live coverage of English Premier League football, has long been a jewel in the crown of media magnate Murdoch.

"I have concluded that the proposed merger does not raise public interest concerns and so I can confirm today that I will not be issuing an intervention notice," Hancock told parliament in London.

Long-running saga

However, turning to Fox’s lower offer per share for the 61% of Sky it does not already own, Hancock said he favoured "divesting Sky News" to a suitable third party to address public-interest issues of concern identified by regulators before giving Fox the nod.

Fox is seeking to buy the 61% of Sky that it does not own for £11.4bn, but the long-running saga has been plagued by fears over media plurality and broadcasting standards — and the rising influence of Murdoch.

New York-listed Fox had proposed in April to sell rolling TV news channel Sky News to Disney in order to finally clinch its takeover of Sky. Comcast, which itself lost out to Disney in 2017 in an effort to buy 21st Century Fox, had last month formalised its cash bid for all of Sky.

Hancock made his announcement in the light of a final report from Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority on the Fox deal. The regulator again raised the possibility of "increased influence of the Murdoch Family Trust over public opinion and the UK’s political agenda", should Fox win control of Sky News.

AFP