UK Takeover Panel sets £14 floor under Sky shares

Jewel Samad  AFP  Getty Images

Jewel Samad AFP Getty Images

Sky PLC shares leapt to an 18-year high on Thursday as investors bet a transatlantic battle for the European pay-TV group had further to run, after Comcast Corp.'s US$34-billion bid trumped an offer from Rupert Murdoch made just hours earlier.

Comcast upped the ante after trading on Wednesday had ended saying it was now prepared to offer $US34 billion, up from its original offer of $US31 billion, and well above the original offer from Fox around $US26 billion.

Sky shares were at 15.39 pounds in London on Friday, down 0.4 percent.

Additionally, Comcast has announced that its increased superior cash offer has been recommended by the Sky Independent Committee of Directors.

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Fox already owns 39% of Sky and while it tangles with Comcast, Comcast and Disney are also trying to buy Fox itself.

The 21st Century Fox logo is displayed outside the News Corporation building in the Manhattan borough of New York City, June 15, 2018.

The fight is part of a bigger battle being waged in the entertainment industry as the growth of Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. force the world's traditional media giants to spend tens of billions of dollars to keep pace.

Under its plans to appease Government concerns, Fox has pledged to offload Sky News to Walt Disney, which is separately bidding to buy a major chunk of Fox assets - including the Sky stake. Comcast said that it has long admired Sky and believes it is an outstanding company and a great fit with Comcast.

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Fox said Disney had given its consent to the additional debt Fox would take on and said that it would reimburse Fox by around 1 billion pounds if Fox succeeds in buying Sky at that price, but the Disney-Fox transaction falls through.

Present in 23 million homes across Europe, Sky is a prized asset, with a slate of top sport and original drama content.

Its offer represents an 82 percent premium to Sky's shares in 2016 before the takeover drama started, and a multiple of 21 times 2017 earnings per share. Murdoch's higher bid for Sky earlier Wednesday put pressure on Comcast Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts to come back with a higher price. Should Fox be the eventual victor, it has been stated that the news sector of the company, Sky News, must be sold to a rival. Disney has also shown a large interest and, late previous year reached an agreement to purchase the bulk of Twenty-First Century Fox's media empire - which includes its 39% stake in Sky.

If Comcast doesn't bid again for Fox, it's surrendering in its quest to acquire the other Fox assets, such as Star India, a 30 percent stake in Hulu, Fox's movie studio and cable channels FX and National Geographic.

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"For Comcast, bidding for the whole of Fox, it's now too expensive, so they're focusing their bidding efforts on Sky", the fund manager said on the condition of anonymity. Fox recently accepted a $71 billion offer from Disney, and the New York Times reported Thursday that Comcast will end its pursuit of Fox and focus on Sky.

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