Disney bids for Sky News to aid Murdoch's Sky takeover

CREDIT Courtesy of Sky

CREDIT Courtesy of Sky

Rupert Murdoch ratcheted up the pressure on Britain to approve his $15 billion-plus bid for pay-TV group Sky by offering to sell or legally separate Sky News, aiming to head off objections the deal could give him too much political influence. Disney views Sky as an important component of its deal to buy Fox assets and key to its plans to expand its worldwide footprint.

Fox is meanwhile ramping up its Sky takeover efforts after USA cable giant Comcast offered more than £22 billion for the entire group in February.

Some Sky shareholders, frustrated by the delay, had already said Fox should increase its 10.75 pounds-per-share offer.

The company has offered stronger measures to address media plurality concerns about it owning Sky News, and said that otherwise, Disney could buy the news channel.

Disney's interest is likely to be welcomed by British regulators. "It's a sweetener, and it's saying "we aren't as gung-ho on acquiring Sky News as they think".

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Sky shares went up about 1 percent on Tuesday morning, making it a top gainer in the FTSE 100.

In a move separate from the Disney offer, Fox also said it would also establish Sky News as a separate company to ease its takeover of Sky.

This would be similar to the legal separation previous year of BT and Openreach, which owns its phone and broadband cable networks.

Both options revolve around Sky's news business. "We look forward to concluding this acquisition - finally - in a timely and expeditious manner".

Sky now trades higher than the Comcast proposal, indicating that investors are expecting a bidding war.

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The UK's Competition and Markets Authority has said the deal would be "not in the public interest", largely because it would give the. Twenty-First Century offered this even though the record before the CMA shows that, over the course of almost 30 years as Sky's founding shareholder, neither Twenty-First Century, nor the Murdoch Family Trust, have ever sought to influence the editorial direction of Sky News.

The proposed takeover is very controversial as critics have warned tit would leave too much media power in the hands of the Murdoch family - who already own The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun.

"We have proposed a set of solutions that address and resolve any and all questions or concerns that may have been raised by the transaction", Gerson Zweifach, Fox's general counsel, said in an emailed statement.

The deal, announced in December, is expected to take up to two years to secure approval from regulators. For decades, Murdoch has been criticized by liberal politicians for having too much control over the United Kingdom media scene and using his influence to champion conservative causes.

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