Fox digs heels in over Sky takeover

  • 15/07/2017
Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch. Photo credit: File

Twentieth Century Fox is waiting to learn if the UK government will refer its attempted takeover of Sky to competition authorities after the period in which interested parties had their say on the deal closed.

The deal looks likely to be examined further, with Fox reportedly not offering further concessions in the latest consultation.

Early reports said a decision from the UK culture secretary Karen Bradley would not happen before the British parliament broke for its summer break, which runs from July 20 to September 5.

But the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said this is not necessarily the case.

Bradley must decide whether to refer the takeover to the Competition Markets Authority in whole or in part.

She said earlier this month she was minded to refer the element of the deal that concerned plurality, and specifically Sky News, to the CMA, and to waive through the parts referring to whether the Murdoch family are 'fit and proper' owners of a combined Fox-Sky.

Sky's share price rose sharply directly after Ms Bradley's earlier decision, and Fox's edged up.

The latest consultation period closed at noon on Friday, and Sky's share price was down slightly immediately afterwards, before recovering. Fox was marginally up in early trading.

Fox has already offered a range of concessions over Sky News, including an independent board, a solution that industry watchers said was hard to enforce in practical terms, and which Ms Bradley said she thought were insufficient.

It may have now opted to go to the competition authorities to gain a full approval from an independent body, which it hopes will defuse political criticism of the deal.

"Fox has decided trying to offer more concessions doesn't make much sense," Liberum analyst Ian Whittaker told Bloomberg's news channel.

"It would rather go to a full review, this would be taken by an impartial body, and then they expect to get approval."

Opposition MPs in the UK have continued to voice opposition to the deal on the grounds of both plurality and, in the wake of the phone hacking scandal and questions over the running of Fox News in the US, whether the Murdochs should be put in charge of a merged Fox-Sky, which would trail only the BBC and ITN in terms of share of the UK news media.

Reuters

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