Comcast, the owner of NBC and Universal Studios, has announced a rival bid to take over Sky which includes maintaining Sky News’ “existing brand and culture”.
The US company has said its £22bn ($31bn) offer is a “superior cash proposal” to the £12bn bid made by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox for the 61 per cent of Sky it does not already own.
Comcast’s bid values Sky shares at £12.50 – a 16 per cent increase in value on Fox’s offer, it claims.
As part of its proposal, Comcast said it intended to keep Sky’s UK headquarters in Osterley, west London, and that it recognised Sky News as an “invaluable part of the UK news landscape”.
It said: “The company intends to maintain Sky News’ existing brand and culture, as well as its strong track record for high-quality impartial news and adherence to broadcasting standards.”
Comcast said that, while its UK operation has more than 1,300 employees, it “only has a minimal presence in the UK media market” and as such did not believe its bid raised media plurality concerns.
Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive of Comcast, said: “We think Sky is an outstanding company.
“It has 23m customers, leading positions in the UK, Italy and Germany, and is a consistent innovator in its use of technology to deliver its customers a great experience.
“Sky has a proud record of investment in news and programming. It has great people and a very strong and capable management team. We think that Sky would be very valuable to us as we look to expand our presence internationally.”
Roberts said Comcast would “like to own the whole of Sky” and would be looking to acquire more than 50 per cent of its shares.
“The UK is and will remain a great place to do business,” he said.
“We already have a strong presence in London and Comcast intends to use Sky as a platform for our growth in Europe. We intend to maintain and enhance Sky’s business.”
Roberts said the addition of Sky to its “family of businesses” would increase the company’s international revenues from 9 per cent to 25 per cent.
He said Comcast is confident in meeting regulatory approvals and that the proposed buyout would improve its free cash flow per share in the first year.
He added: “We hold the management of Sky in high regard and would welcome the opportunity to meet with them and the independent directors of Sky to discuss our plans for the business, particularly with respect to maintaining Sky’s strong platform in the UK.”
Fox has already agreed to sell Sky to Disney should its takeover bid be approved by the UK’s competition watchdog, which has yet to pass a final judgement on the deal.
It has, however, already issued a provisional ruling stating the Fox/Sky merger, as it stands, would not be in the public interest owing to the increased influence it would give the Murdoch family.
In an attempt to assuage the watchdog’s concerns, Murdoch has offered remedies including a pledge to maintain a Sky News service for at least ten years and the creation of an independent editorial board that would oversee the hiring of the head of Sky News.