Comcast outbids Disney with US$65 bln offer for Fox assets

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 13: People walk by the headquarters of 21st Century Fox on June 13, 2018 in New York City. Comcast, the giant cable operator, on Wednesday officially made a $65 billion all-cash bid for the majority of Fox. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP

NEW YORK: Comcast offered US$65 billion for key film and television assets of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, topping an offer from Walt Disney Co. for a deal that could create a dominant media-entertainment power.

The move by Comcast, which is the largest US cable provider and also owns the NBCUniversal media group, opens up a new round of competition for the prized assets being shed by the Murdoch family empire.

The deal, if approved, would merge Comcast-owned Universal Studios and the NBC television network with Hollywood rival 20th Century Fox, Fox’s cable entertainment networks and international TV businesses.

“These are highly strategic and complementary businesses and we are in our minds the right buyer,” said Comcast chairman and chief executive Brian Roberts in a conference call.

Roberts said Murdoch had built “one of the world’s great media and entertainment companies,” and that its history is similar to that of Comcast’s.

With the deal, Roberts said Comcast would stay on track “to build the entertainment company of the future.”

Roberts said the all-cash bid is nearly 20 per cent richer than the US$52 billion stock offer from Disney, and said Comcast would match the Disney offer of a US$2.5 billion fee if the deal fails to win regulatory approval.

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“We are highly confident in our ability to finance the transaction, and our offer includes no financing-related conditions,” Comcast said in a letter to Rupert Murdoch and his sons Lachlan and James.

The statement pointed out that Comcast and Fox had been in talks before the Murdochs reached the deal with Disney, which is being submitted for a shareholder vote July 10.

The new offer is likely to prompt a response from Disney, and force the Murdochs to review their position on the tie-up with Disney, which owns the ABC television networks ESPN and is a major Hollywood player.

The news comes a day after a federal judge approved a massive US$85 billion takeover by telecom-broadband giant AT&T or media-entertainment conglomerate Time Warner that could reshape the media and communications landscape.

The court approval ended a
heated antitrust battle, and suggested Comcast would be able to clear any regulatory hurdles to a deal with Fox. — AFP

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