Comcast raises stakes in battle for Sky with £26bn offer
It follows an increased offer from 21st Century Fox.
The battle to take over Sky has been stepped up as Comcast upped their bid to £26 billion.
Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox had turned up the heat earlier on Wednesday by putting forward an offer worth £24.5 billion, but late in the evening Comcast put forward a £14.75-a-share proposal.
Fox had previously seen a £10.75-a-share price it offered 18 months ago surpassed by a £12.50-a-share proposal by the rival US cable group.
Comcast said that its increased cash offer has been recommended by the Sky Independent Committee of Directors.
Brian Roberts, chief executive officer of Comcast, said: “We have long admired Sky which we believe is an outstanding company and a great fit with Comcast.
“Today’s announcement further underscores this belief and our commitment to owning Sky.”
All eyes will now turn to Fox to see if it will increase its offer for the 61% of Sky that it does not already own.
Fox is hoping to see off competition from Comcast after a long battle to buy the remaining stake, having faced heavy scrutiny from the UK government and competition watchdogs.
Fox is still waiting for a final decision from the Government on whether to accept its proposals over the sale of Sky News to address concerns over media plurality, given that the Murdoch family also owns News Corp – the publisher of a raft newspapers including The Sun and The Times.
Last month, the then UK culture secretary Matt Hancock said Fox would have to sell off Sky News to secure government approval for the deal.
Under its plans to offload Sky News to Disney, Fox has pledged to provide a Disney-owned Sky News channel with funding of at least £100 million a year for 15 years.
But if terms of a sale of Sky News cannot be agreed, Mr Hancock told Parliament the “only effective remedy now would be to block the merger altogether”.
A decision was expected to be made by the end of Thursday.
The Government has separately cleared Comcast’s bid for Sky.
Sky has been thrust at the centre of a global tussle between media giants Walt Disney and Comcast as they lead a fightback against the might of Amazon and Netflix.
Fox has already agreed to sell most of its assets – including its current 39% stake in Sky – to Disney.
If Fox buys the remaining stake in Sky before completing the Disney deal, Disney would take full ownership of Sky when it closes its own takeover of the Fox assets.
But in a further complication to the takeover saga, Comcast has also made an all-cash offer for the Fox assets separate from its offer for Sky.