Comcast has moved into pole position in the race to acquire Sky after winning the backing of its target’s board for an improved £26bn bid.
The company entered the bidding for control of Sky back in April with a £22bn bid, higher than the £18bn offered by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox for the 61% of Sky it doesn’t already own.
On Wednesday morning Fox boosted its offer to £24.5bn but by evening had again been outbid by Comcast whose improved bid has been recommended by Sky’s Independent Committee of Directors.
Fox first announced plans to take full control of Sky last year but its bid has been subjected to delays caused by the need to win regulatory approval in the light of concerns about media plurality due to the combination of Sky News and Mr Murdoch’s newspaper interests.
UK ministers had said a Fox/Sky tie-up could only proceed if Sky News was first sold off to another party and funding provided by Fox for its longterm future.
It had been expected that Disney, which is pursuing a separate bid for Fox’s entertainment assets including its minority stake in Sky, would buy the news channel.
In contrast to Fox’s offer, Comcast’s bid has been approved by UK regulators without any conditions being imposed.
In a statement issued on Wednesday evening, Comcast said it expects to complete the acquisition before the end of October 2018.
The firm added that “has long admired Sky and believes it is an outstanding company and a great fit with Comcast.”
Commenting on the Increased Offer, Martin Gilbert, Deputy Chairman of Sky said: “The Independent Committee welcomes this increased offer which presents an attractive premium for Sky Shareholders to the current alternative offer for the Company.
“We have long recognized the unique position that Sky occupies in the European direct-to-consumer landscape and unanimously recommend this offer by Comcast.”
Directors had recommended Fox’s original bid but withdrew their backing following Comcast’s initial offer.