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Comcast outbids Rupert Murdoch with ?22bn offer for Sky 

The US cable goliath Comcast has gatecrashed the Murdoch family’s bid for full control of Sky with its own more generous offer to create a vast transatlantic media empire.
Comcast unveiled a ?12.50 per share cash offer, gazumping 21st Century Fox’s ?10.75 bid by 16pc. Sky shares immediately shot up to more than ?13 in anticipation of a bidding war.
Sky's independent directors noted the possible offer and said in a statement: "Since no firm offer has been made at this point, shareholders are advised to take no action."
Comcast’s move threatens to derail not only the Fox bid but also to throw a spanner in the works of Rupert Murdoch’s plan to sell Sky on to Disney as part of a $60bn asset sale. It is due to mark the media mogul’s retrenchment and Disney chief executive Bob Iger has labelled Sky the “crown jewel” of the deal.
Comcast’s bid values Sky at ?22.1bn. The cable operator, which has a stock market valuation of more than ?130bn, said it had long admired Britain’s biggest pay-TV operator.
Sky share price
Chief executive Brian Roberts, who is part of Comcast’s founding dynasty and controls 33pc of its voting rights, said he had made his move after being impressed by Sky’s technology on a visit to Britain in November. Comcast was also swayed by the outcome of the recent Premier League rights auction, which eased Sky’s cost burden and sparked calls from non-Murdoch shareholders for a more generous bid.
Mr Roberts said: “The UK is and will remain a great place to do business. 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.”
Comcast said that in a show of its “seriousness” in bidding for Sky that it would be happy to acquire control through ownership of only just over half the shares. The proposed structure of the bid makes it possible that Fox could remain a major shareholder and sell its 39pc stake onto Disney, Mr Roberts said.
The bid is a test for Sky’s independent directors, led by deputy chairman Martin Gilbert and pitches the company into the heart of manoeuvres by three Hollywood titans as they navigate new threats from Netflix, Amazon and Apple. US cable operators have been suffering as consumers turn away from their traditional bundle of channels in favour of cheaper subscription streaming options.
Comcast outbids Rupert Murdoch with ?22bn offer for Sky 

Comcast's bid for Sky could disrupt Rupert Murdoch's planned takeover of the company
As well as being the biggest broadband and pay-TV operator in the US, Comcast owns one of the main broadcast networks, NBC, and the film studio Universal. Comcast, Disney and Fox are also partners in Hulu, the subscription streaming service which Disney is due to take control of following its deal for a string of Murdoch assets.
Comcast has been considering how to expand its empire internationally since it was forced by monopoly concerns to abandon a bid for rival operator Time Warner Cable in 2015. The addition of Sky would increase the share of its revenues from international businesses from less than a tenth to a quarter.
Sky has also not been as damaged as US pay-TV operators by the rise of streaming.
Mr Roberts said: “We’ve got to keep growing. By having more scale both companies will be able to innovate and amortise the cost of that over a bigger base.”
Fox already owns 39pc of Sky and is in the late stages of seeking regulatory approval. It has  offered to “firewall” Sky News with an independent board and 10-year funding guarantee in an attempt to soothe concerns over Murdoch influence.
Mr Roberts said there would be no such regulatory wrangling with a Comcast takeover. He pledged to maintain Sky News and its broadcasting standards, as well as to invest in Sky’s technology divisions and production business.
Analysts said Fox is likely to respond with an improved bid.
Neil Campling of Mirabaud said: “Fox will have to sharpen their pencils now.
“There is no way we can see that Fox will walk away given how advanced the regulatory clearance process is. This bid marks a floor not an end to this particular saga. Let the battle commence.”
One City source suggested it was more likely that any response to Comcast's bid could come direct from Disney.
Claire Enders, the media analyst, said: "Fox can’t raise price for Sky without Disney approval. So effectively Disney will be deciding the next phase.
"I can’t see why Disney would have a problem with raising price post Premier League auction result.
"It is exceedingly rare for a bid to be disrupted at this late regulatory stage that’s for sure."
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