The United Kingdom government will give its final ruling on 21st Century Fox Inc.’s $15.5-billion bid for Sky Plc by Thursday, a decision set to trigger a bidding contest with Comcast Corp. for Britain’s top pay-TV company.
Jeremy Wright, who became culture secretary Monday as part of a shake-up by Prime Minister Theresa May, said he would stick to plans to announce a decision imminently. “I intend to keep to the timetable,” Wright said in a written statement to Parliament.
Wright’s predecessor, Matt Hancock, was on the verge of clearing the Fox-Sky deal before being moved to run Britain’s health ministry. Fox is waiting for the government decision before upping its offer for Sky, as it aims to beat a rival bid from Comcast, according to people familiar with the matter. On a per-share basis, Comcast’s current offer tops Fox’s by 16%.
The tussle for Sky is part of a wider battle between Comcast and Walt Disney Co. for the bulk of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. Each is trying to add more movies and shows to take on streaming competitors Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
Murdoch has agreed to sell Fox’s entertainment assets to Disney, including Fox’s 39% stake in Sky, though Comcast is considering making another counteroffer for the Fox portfolio.