Comcast Corp. issued a preliminary offer of $ 22.1 billion ($ 30.9 billion) to Sky PLC on Tuesday, outperforming 21st Century Fox Inc. for a bid to consolidate ownership of the UK broadcaster and one of the most attractive International assets that Walt Disney Co. has agreed to buy from Fox.
Comcast is offering a £ 12.50 share to everyone on Sky, outperforming Fox's £ 10.75 bid for the 61% of Sky who does not yet own it. The offer comes because investors are already betting that Fox would have to increase its bid, as the price of Sky shares is above the offer price. Sky's shares rose 1
The move comes after Disney agreed last year to buy a large part of Fox's assets, including its stake in Sky, for more than $ 52 billion. Sky was seen as a particularly attractive element in the package – a way Disney could expand its overseas presence. Sky declined to comment, and representatives of Fox and Disney could not be reached immediately for comment on early Tuesday
Comcast said It was very eager to buy everything from Sky – including the involvement of Fox.
"We think Sky would be very valuable to us if we want to expand our presence internationally," Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts said in a statement.
Comcast said that a firm offer for Sky is underway and will not be made without final approval from the Board of Comcast.
The separate Fox Sky deal has undergone a series of regulatory reviews in the UK. Regulators have expressed concerns that Sky's ownership of Fox, which operates a British news agency, would consolidate media exposure.
Rupert Murdoch and his family are major shareholders of both Fox and News Corp, which owns a number of British newspapers. News Corp also owns the Wall Street Journal. Fox said there are enough news channels in the country – including new, online media – that media control would not be focused on the deal.
Britain's antitrust regulator has said it will make a definitive recommendation on the deal later this year. The British Government has the last word. Fox has proposed fencing Sky's news department with an independent board, a move that regulators said it will think about.
During this opening, the Sky shares have strengthened in anticipation of the upcoming Fox Sky transaction had since gone away from negotiations with Mr. Murdoch over Fox. But according to the Disney Fox agreement, Comcast executives have recently begun to rethink an offer for Fox or parts of it, according to the persons in charge of the matter.
The Comcast bid is the latest move in complicated four-way business conversations that have been waged for more than a year between Fox and Sky, Fox and Comcast, and Fox and Disney.
In the course of these negotiations, Mr. Murdoch has aggressively moved away from the buyer to consolidate his ownership of Sky, having failed to do so several years earlier – becoming a seller of assets.
In his deal with Disney, Fox agreed to sell only the 39% of Sky that already owns it. However, Disney has said that should the UK government block the deal, they might consider bidding separately for the rest of Sky. The broadcaster has a distribution channel across Europe and has rights to valuable content, including the coveted English Premier League football matches.
In a recent auction, Sky retained its rights to these games and paid a lower price than many more thought-provoking stocks.
Write to Ben Dummett at email@example.com and Stu Woo at Stu.Woo@wsj.com