US communications and entertainment giant Comcast has been confirmed as the highest bidder for European equivalent Sky, offering a deal worth nearly £30 billion to acquire the company and its TV broadcast, fixed-line telecommunications, and broadband divisions.
Spun out from Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation in 1989, Sky Television - as it was then known - had a rocky start: After just two years and continued losses the company was forced into a merger with rival British Satellite Broadcasting to form the combined company British Sky Broadcasting, better known as BSkyB. Combined, the two companies proved more robust than their independent predecessors: BSkyB would go on to buy Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland and rebrand as the pan-European Sky in 2014. Another of its famous acquisitions was Alan Sugar's Amstrad, picked up for £125 million in 2007 in order to bring its set-top box supply chain in-house - and in doing so receiving the rights to the Sinclair ZX Spectrum brand and technology, itself acquired by Amstrad following the failure of Sinclair Research's QL business computer.
Murdoch, however, has long had his eye on Sky, and News Corporation quickly picked up 39 percent of the company, which it retains under its new moniker of 21st Century Fox - a hasty rebranding exercise to distance itself from the 2009 phone hacking scandal. In December 2016 it seemed that Murdoch would once again take control of Sky by pickup up the remaining 61 percent for £11.7 billion, but the deal stalled amid regulatory concerns and increased interest from Fox's competitors.
Comcast, one of said competitors, has now emerged as the front-runner in what has become a bidding war for the company - and Sky shareholders are being urged to accept its offer of £17.28 per share, up on Fox's £15.67 per share, in a deal valued at almost £30 billion.
'This is a great day for Comcast,' Comcast chair and chief executive Brian Roberts crows. 'Sky is a wonderful company with a great platform, tremendous brand, and accomplished management team. This acquisition will allow us to quickly, efficiently and meaningfully increase our customer base and expand internationally. We couldn’t be more excited by the opportunities in front of us. We now encourage Sky shareholders to accept our offer, which we look forward to completing before the end of October 2018.'
The deal isn't done yet, however: The shareholders have yet to vote on the offer, which was presented following a blind auction, and any such acquisition would be subject to the same regulatory oversight as Fox's originally-scuppered 2016 bid.
February 24 2020 | 12:00