Fox Gets U.K. Approval to Buy Sky Amid Comcast Bidding War

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The battle for Sky has become a central battlefield in a larger contest between Comcast and Disney.

The battle for Sky has become a central battlefield in a larger contest between Comcast and Disney.


Photo:

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg News

LONDON—The U.K. government said it won’t oppose a bid by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc. to consolidate ownership of

Sky


SKYAY -1.08%

PLC, removing the last regulatory hurdle for Fox as it battles it out with

Comcast
Corp.


CMCSA 1.29%

for the British broadcaster.

Fox sweetened its offer for Sky on Wednesday, triggering a higher bid a few hours later from Comcast. Comcast’s offer, at £14.75 a share, now values Sky at £25.9 billion, or roughly $34 billion—more than 90% higher than its value before Fox first approached Sky about a deal more than 18 months ago.

British government approval for the Fox-Sky deal opens the door for Fox to go higher still. Comcast has previously secured U.K. approval to proceed with its pursuit of Sky.

Mr. Murdoch’s attempt to buy the 61% of Sky that Fox doesn’t already own has been the subject of a long government review. Regulators forced a number of concessions from Fox, including an agreement to sell off Sky’s news operations to

Walt Disney
Co.

That was required to ease government concerns 100% ownership of Sky by Fox would concentrate too much control of British news media in Mr. Murdoch’s hands. He and his family are major shareholders in both Fox and

News Corp
,

which owns a number of British newspapers. It also owns The Wall Street Journal. Fox has disputed this, saying there should be no such worry about media ownership concentration.

On Thursday, the U.K. culture minister said in a statement he agreed with a regulatory board’s previous finding that Fox’s planned sale of Sky News to Disney, or another buyer, would remedy those regulatory concern.

The Sky auction has become a central battlefield in a larger contest between Comcast and Disney. Disney has agreed to pay $71.3 billion for a number of major Fox assets, including the existing 39.1% share of Sky, besting a rival bid from Comcast. The Wall Street Journal has reported Comcast is reviewing a range of options related the wider basket of Fox assets, from dropping out of the race for Fox to raising its bid.

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