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Comcast declares bidding war on Murdoch and Disney over Sky 

The Murdoch family are tonight night plotting a counterstrike in the battle for Sky after Comcast opened formal hostilities with a ?22bn bid for control of Britain’s dominant pay-TV operator.
Sky’s independent directors withdrew support for the ?10.75 per share takeover agreed with 21st Century Fox in late 2016, as Comcast confirmed its offer of ?12.50, a 16pc improvement on the Murdoch deal.
The moves set the scene for a bidding war and sent Sky shares up nearly 4pc to ?13.59.
Investors are betting that Fox, controlled by Rupert, James and Lachlan Murdoch and already owner of 39pc of Sky, will come up with an improved offer of its own to salvage a takeover that the Murdoch family have sought since at least 2010. The media empire behind films such as Deadpool and television shows including The Simpsons said it was considering its options and that it “remains committed” to its offer for Sky.
Alternatively Comcast rival Disney, which has agreed to buy most of Fox’s assets including Sky in a $66bn (?47bn) Hollywood power play, could respond directly by bidding for Sky itself.
As it formalised its attempt to gatecrash the complex two-step deal for Sky, Comcast sought to underline its claims that its bid would not face the political and regulatory gauntlet that has heavily delayed Fox.
Repeated reviews of the Murdoch family’s media power in the UK have meant Fox’s bid has still not gained government approval more than 14 months after the price was agreed with Sky. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is due to provide advice to the Culture Secretary Matt Hancock next week, and he is scheduled to make a decision on whether to block Fox on media plurality grounds in June.
We understand the role that Sky plays in UK society and in its customers' livesBrian Roberts, Comcast’s chief executive and son of its founder
Comcast said it will make a legally binding commitment to fund the rolling news channel at at least its current level for a decade, matching remedies offered by Fox to the CMA. Sky News is understood to lose around ?40m per year.
Comcast also said it will establish an independent board for Sky News as a safeguard against potential editorial interference, which has been a major concern for opponents of the Murdoch pursuit of Sky. Fox has also offered to ring-fence governance of the channel and spin it off into a separate company, wholly owned by Sky.
Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chief executive and son of its founder, is seeking to gazump Fox as the Murdoch family’s deal with Disney threatens to shift the balance of power in the media industry. Hollywood dealmaking has accelerated as fear of the threat from Silicon Valley mounts.
Comcast itself held talks to buy most of Fox but backed out amid concerns it would face regulatory opposition and has instead so far opted to seek control of Sky alone.
Comcast declares bidding war on Murdoch and Disney over Sky 

Brian Roberts said Comcast would be a good custodian of Sky News
Mr Roberts said: "We also understand the role that Sky plays in UK society and in its customers' lives and we are determined to be responsible and trusted owners of Sky.
"We understand and appreciate the value of news and are committed to protecting the important role that Sky News plays in providing a high-quality impartial news service."
He plans cost savings and a cross-selling boost of around $500m following the merger, which Comcast said it aims to complete by the end of this year. The impact on jobs will be "limited", Mr Roberts said, with savings mostly drawn from sharing technology and production on international sporting events.
Comcast said that it would also undertake not to buy any British newspapers for five years as a further media plurality guarantee to contrast with Murdoch control of The Sun and The Times titles. Its UK news activities include an international partnership between its NBC News operation and ITN, and a major stake in the news and entertainment website Buzzfeed, which competes with newspapers, and Sky News online.
At a glance | Comcast
Fox would need Disney's permission to increase its own bid, as it would need to increase its borrowing. Disney has already signalled its appetite for the fight, however, with an offer to buy Sky News regardless of whether its wider deal with Fox proceeds. That move earlier this month was intended to make it more difficult to reject the Fox bid on media plurality grounds.
The rising prospect of a bidding war will tighten focus on Sky's independent directors, led by deputy chairman Martin Gilbert and advised by bankers from PJT, Barclays and Morgan Stanley. The company came under fire in 2016 from independent shareholders who said they accepted a lowball offer from Fox and will now be under pressure to extract a much higher price.
Sky said today: "The independent committee is mindful of its fiduciary duties and has consistently sought to maximise value for all shareholders."
Some shareholders have claimed that a competitive auction between Comcast and Disney could mean Sky could fetch as much as ?16 per share. Sky said it would continue talking to both sides as the battle develops.
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