London, The Britain government on Thursday cleared media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s move to buy Sky News, removing the final regulatory obstacle to a head-to-head battle between his 21 Century Fox and US rival Comcast for the European pay-TV.
New Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright gave Fox the green light to try and buy the remaining 61 per cent stake in Sky, the Guardian reported.
Fox sweetened its offer for Sky on Wednesday, triggering a higher bid a few hours later from Comcast, whose offer, at $19.48 a share, now values Sky at $34 billion — about 90 per cent higher than its value before Fox first approached Sky for a deal over 18 months ago.
“21st Century Fox notes the announcement by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport approving the proposed acquisition by 21CF for the fully diluted share capital of Sky which 21CF and its affiliates do not already own,” the US-based company said in a press release.
Sky’s share price rose more than two per cent on Thursday as investors reacted to the prospect of a bidding war over the summer.
British government approval for the Fox-Sky deal opens the door for Fox to go higher still. Comcast has previously secured UK approval to proceed with its pursuit of Sky.
The attempt by Fox owner Murdoch to buy the 61 per cent of Sky has been the subject of a long government review. Regulators forced a number of concessions from Fox, including an agreement to sell off Sky’s news operations to Disney.
That was required to ease government concerns that a 100 per cent ownership of Sky by Fox would concentrate too much control of British news media in Murdoch’s hands, Efe news agency reported.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Comcast was reviewing a range of options related the wider basket of Fox assets, from dropping out of the race for Fox to raising its bid.