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Comcast abandons pursuit of 21st Century Fox to focus on rival Sky bid

By PA Mediapoint

US cable giant Comcast has dropped plans to bid for Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox assets, with plans to focus solely on a £26bn takeover of UK broadcaster Sky.

In a statement released today, Comcast said it “does not intend to pursue” the acquisition of Fox assets which it has already agreed to sell to Walt Disney and will instead “focus on our recommended offer for Sky“.

Disney had raised its offer for Fox assets to $71bn (£54.7bn), outbidding Comcast’s $65bn (£50bn) bid.

Comcast chairman and chief executive Brian Roberts said: “I’d like to congratulate Bob Iger and the team at Disney and commend the Murdoch family and Fox for creating such a desirable and respected company.”

Sky shares were down 1.8 per cent following the news.

It is the latest twist in a takeover saga engulfing the UK broadcaster, which is facing a rival takeover offer from Fox.

Comcast recently increased its offer for Sky to £26bn, just hours after Fox hiked its bid for the UK broadcaster to £24.5bn.

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All eyes are now on Fox to see if it will increase its offer for the 61 per cent of Sky that it does not already own.

Fox was last week given the UK Government’s all-clear to take over Sky, though the company still faces a battle to see off rival bidder Comcast.

Newly appointed Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said he agreed with his predecessor’s final decision to accept Fox’s planned sale of Sky News to Disney – a move clearing the final regulatory hurdle for Fox.

The Government has already separately cleared Comcast’s bid for Sky.

It had been concerned over the impact that Fox’s takeover of Sky could have on UK media, given that the Murdoch family also owns News Corp, the publisher of a raft of newspapers including The Sun and The Times.

Under its plans to appease Government concerns over media plurality, Fox has pledged to offload Sky News to Walt Disney, and provide a Disney-owned Sky News channel with funding of at least £100m a year for 15 years.

Figures released last week also showed that bankers, lawyers and PR firms are poised for a bumper £339m pay day if Comcast triumphs in its Sky takeover.

Documents revealed that the likes of Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo and Barclays will share in multimillion-pound fees if the £26bn deal goes through.

Those offering financial and corporate broking advice will together receive up to £38m from Comcast alone, and those billing for “financial arrangements” are set to net a cool £170m.

Comcast’s PR firm Tulchan will share in the near £7.7m earmarked for public relations advice, while its lawyers Freshfields and Davis Polk will be pocketing part of the £24m linked to legal costs.

The accountants and firms providing Comcast with tax advice are set for a smaller £636,000 payout.

In total, Comcast is expecting to pay fees of up to £243m.

Sky will pay out nearly £96m for similar services, with up to £61.5m set for financial and corporate broking advice, while its public relations advisers will receive £5m.

Picture: Reuters/Mike Blake

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