Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.'s (FOXA) - Get Report shares traded higher in pre-market dealing Thursday amid reports that its impending deal with Walt Disney Co. (DIS) - Get Report could value Rupert Murdoch's media empire at more than $75 billion.
The sale of movie and television assets to Disney, and the creation of a smaller media company focused on news and sports programming, marks perhaps one of the biggest industry shifts in a decade and the first retreat from an expansion strategy used by Murdoch for the past three decades.
Fox shares were quoted 2.35% higher than their Wednesday close in pre-market trading Thursday, indicating and opening price of $33.10 each and an overall market value of $60 billion. Disney shares, by contrast, were little-changed and expected to open at $107.55 each.
Both Reuters and the Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday that Disney is prepared to pay $29 a share for a collection of Murdoch's media assets, including TV and movie studios, cable networks and international divisions in Europe and India, for around $60 billion, including existing debt. Once sold, Fox shareholders would be offered the group's remaining assets, including Fox News and Fox Sports, for $11 a share, the reports indicate, giving the entire collection of assets a market value of $75 billion.
While a deal could be announced as soon as Thursday, TheStreet's Chris Nolter writes that the tie-up could raise concerns in Washington as political considerations outweigh any economic benefits.
"AT&T's purchase of Time Warner is a vertical deal, combining the production and distribution of movies and TV. The Justice Department argues that AT&T could withhold Time Warner's content from other pay-TV providers and jack up prices for popular programs such as 'Game of Thrones'," he said.
"Disney's purchase of the Fox assets would be also a vertical combination primarily, this one involving film and TV assets-in the U.S. at least. Disney would reportedly acquire a stake in satellite TV groups in Europe and India," he added.
TheStreet's founder, Jim Cramer, however, argues the deal is first and foremost about scale.
"Disney's in the position I was in 22 years ago," Cramer said. "It doesn't matter how much they pay, they will be getting huge scale and they need it, need it badly because even as big as Disney is, the problem is that Apple (AAPL) - Get Report Facebook (FB) - Get Report , Alphabet (GOOGL) - Get Report , Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report and even Netflix (NFLX) - Get Report -- the pesky FANG -- might have more scale and therefore get more consumer mindshare worldwide, get more ad dollars and get better programming."
"Now, maybe I have learned to love to be scaly, but I think that this is a terrific deal because they will have a hammerlock on sports programming with ESPN and Fox regional sports, perfect for its BAMtech acquisition," Cramer noted. "Disney will have plenty of potential programming that's not used. And it has an instrument, BAMTech, to broadcast it throughout the world."
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