The media battle rages on.
Action Alerts PLUS holding Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) shares fell sharply Tuesday amid reports it is preparing a rival bid for the media assets that Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOX) has agreed to sell to Walt Disney Co. (DIS) , including Britain's Sky Plc (SKYAY) .
Comcast has also formally notified the European Commission of its plans to bid for Sky, Britain's biggest pay-TV company, in a deal that could be worth $30 billion if it clears regulatory approval in both Brussels and London. The Comcast bid for Fox's assets, including the 61% of Sky that is currently on the table, could be worth a collective $60 billion, based on a Reuters report that suggested the Philadelphia, Pa.-based media group is looking at a bridge financing agreement of a similar size.
Comcast shares fell 2.16% at the opening bell in New York to change hands at $31.69 each, a move that takes the stock 7.4% lower since it detailed its informal bid for Sky on April 25. Sky shares, meanwhile, were marked 1.9% lower by mid-afternoon in London and trading at 1,346.5 pence each, still well north of the £12.50 bid Comcast said it was prepared to make last month and first tabled in February.
The complex deal is hinged upon Fox's December agreement to sell most of its assets -- including flim studios, FX Networks, Fox Sports Regional Networks; Fox's international networks; Indian satellite TV group Star India; and stakes in National Geographic Partners, Hulu LLC and Sky -- to Disney for around $52.4 billion.
Rupert Murdoch reportedly had concerns about the regulatory outlook for sale of media assets to Comcast, which owns the largest U.S. cable operator as well as NBC and Universal Pictures, and the Reuters reported noted that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts is waiting to see if Federal Jude Richard Leon will block the sale of Time Warner Inc. (TWX) to AT&T Inc. (T) before moving on Fox.
Last week, Britain's Competition and Markets Authority submitted its recommendation on Fox's Sky takeover bid, giving the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Conservative lawmaker Matt Hancock, 30 working days to make a final ruling on the deal -- one day after Judge Leon is expected to rule on the AT&T/Time Warner deal on June 12.
"My decision will be on whether the merger operates or may be expected to operate against the public interest, taking into account the specified public interest considerations of media plurality and genuine commitment to broadcasting standards," Hancock told the House of Commons on May 1. "When I have reached a decision I will return to Parliament to make an oral statement. I will come to a view on whether to make a final order or accept any final undertakings in due course, and will consult on these publicly, but not before I have taken a decision on the public interest tests."
The European Union has until June 15 to rule on Comcast's potential pay for Sky, at which time if can clear the deal without conditions or ask for a more detailed four-month review of the proposal.