Comcast says it may make an offer for Twenty-First Century Fox, opening the door for a bidding war with Disney. The summer meetings are when 21st Century Fox and Disney shareholders are expected to vote on the proposed $52.4 billion acquisition of the Fox assets - neither company has specified a date as yet for its vote.
"Any offer for Fox would be all-cash and at a premium to the value of the current all-share offer from Disney", Comcast added.
Disney in December offered stock then worth $52.4 billion to buy Fox's film, television and worldwide businesses as it bids to beef up its offering against streaming rivals Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc.
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After the Justice Department sued to block AT&T (T) from buying CNN parent company Time Warner (TWC), a Disney-Fox or a Comcast-Fox deal would nearly certainly face antitrust scrutiny.
At stake are such assets as FX Networks, National Geographic, a 30-percent stake in Hulu, and the 20th Century Fox film and television production studios, which include the movie rights for the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool.
The offer would be in all cash but does not include the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Broadcasting Company and certain other assets. Disney wouldn't get all that Fox has to offer, however, as Murdoch would still run the Fox News channel, the Fox broadcast network in the US, and the FS1 Sports network, as part of a new company spun off from 21st Century Fox.
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While no final decision has been made, Comcast said its work to finance the offer - and preparation to file key regulatory statements - is "well advanced". "The structure and terms of any offer by Comcast ... would be at least as favourable to Fox shareholders as the Disney offer". Comcast shares closed down 1.9 percent at $31.88 and Disney shares fell 1.1 percent to $102.89. This is the most outright confirmation by Comcast so far of its intentions to swipe Fox away from Disney. The group announced last week that Lachlan Murdoch would assume the role of chairman and chief executive at the "new" Fox, which would be tightly focused around the Fox News Channel and sports cable channels.
Rumours about Comcast's interests in Fox have circulated for weeks, but it is the first time it has confirmed its intentions. Disney and Comcast have already been at battle in the United Kingdom, where Comcast made a $30.7 billion offer for Sky TV. At that point, it will come down to which company has the deeper pockets and which one is willing to go the distance.
Both Disney and Comcast also are looking to expand overseas and offer more content directly to consumers.
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"It all depends on the AT&T and Time Warner deal", said Brian Wieser, analyst at Pivotal Research.