Comcast, Fox raise bids in escalating takeover battle for Sky

Sky’s jewel in the crown is its live coverage of English Premier League soccer, while the group also provides broadband Internet and telephone services. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2018
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Comcast, Fox raise bids in escalating takeover battle for Sky

  • Comcast lifted its bid for Sky to £26 billion ($34.3 billion) only hours after Rupert Murdoch’s Fox boosted its offer for the 61 percent of Sky it does not own
  • Sky’s jewel in the crown is its live coverage of English Premier League soccer, while the group also provides broadband Internet and telephone services

NEW YORK: Comcast raised its bid for pan-European TV group Sky late Wednesday, topping an offer from 21st Century Fox made only hours earlier and escalating a takeover battle as media giants reposition themselves for the streaming era.
Comcast lifted its bid for Sky to £26 billion ($34.3 billion) only hours after Rupert Murdoch’s Fox boosted its offer for the 61 percent of Sky it does not own.
Fox’ latest bid values Sky at £24.5 billion.
The battle for Sky comes as Comcast is also embroiled in a takeover battle with Disney for Fox entertainment assets that are being split off from Murdoch’s empire. Some analysts have said Comcast could drop its bid for the Fox assets if it wins Sky.
Sky’s jewel in the crown is its live coverage of English Premier League soccer, while the group also provides broadband Internet and telephone services.
Media giants such as Disney and Comcast have been looking to beef up their creative offerings to compete with Netflix and other streaming services that are eroding the value of conventional cable television assets.
The latest back-and-forth started Wednesday morning London time when New York-listed Fox raised its offer to £14 for each outstanding share, up substantially on a previous tilt that was pitched at £10.75.
“As the founding shareholder of Sky, we have remained deeply committed to bringing these two organizations together to create a world-class business positioned to deliver the very best entertainment experiences well into the future,” Fox said.
“The enhanced scale and capabilities of the combination will enrich Sky’s ability to continue on its mission for years to come, especially at a time of dynamic change in our industry.”
But only hours later Comcast rebutted the Fox move, releasing a bid after US markets closed of £14.75 per share, about five percent above the Fox proposal.
Comcast said its sweetened offer has been accepted by Sky independent Committee directors.
“Comcast has long admired Sky and believes it is an outstanding company and a great fit with Comcast,” the company said in a statement released after the US stock market closed.
“Today’s announcement further underscores Comcast’s belief and its commitment to owning Sky.”
Fox’s long-running pursuit for all of Sky has been plagued by UK government fears over media plurality and broadcasting standards — and the influence of Australian-born US citizen Murdoch.
Murdoch owns major British newspaper titles The Times and The Sun. Critics say obtaining full control also of the rolling television channel Sky News would give him too much influence in the news business.
To remedy this, Fox has proposed to sell Sky News to Disney.
Disney has gained the upper hand in the battle with Comcast for Fox’s assets, winning US regulatory approval for the transaction and scheduling a July 27 shareholder vote on the proposed $71.3 billion deal.
Still, Comcast has not walked away from trying to overtake the Fox-Disney tie-up.
Assets in the Fox deal include production companies responsible for “The Simpsons” and “Modern Family,” film production businesses and a major stake in the online platform Hulu.
Should Disney’s bid for the Fox assets succeed, it will also obtain Fox’s 39 percent stake in Sky as part of the package.


Twitter suspends two accounts linked to 12 Russians indicted by Mueller

The accounts have been suspended for being connected to a network of accounts previously suspended for operating in violation of our rules. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 July 2018
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Twitter suspends two accounts linked to 12 Russians indicted by Mueller

  • The indictment alleges that from around June 2016 the conspirators released tens of thousands of stolen emails and documents “using fictitious online personas, including ‘DCLeaks’ and ‘Guccifer 2.0.’.”
  • Friday’s indictment was the first by Mueller that directly charges the Russian government with meddling in the election

WASHINGTON: Social networking site Twitter Inc. on Saturday suspended two accounts linked to 12 Russian spies indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election.
On Friday, a federal grand jury charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking Democratic computer networks in 2016 in the most detailed US accusation yet that Moscow meddled in the election to help Republican Donald Trump.
Twitter said on Saturday it had suspended the accounts @DCLeaks_ and @Guccifer_2 that were named in the indictment, which alleges a wide-ranging conspiracy involving sophisticated hacking and staged release of documents.
The indictment alleges that from around June 2016 the conspirators released tens of thousands of stolen emails and documents “using fictitious online personas, including ‘DCLeaks’ and ‘Guccifer 2.0.’.”
In a statement on Saturday, a Twitter spokesman said: “The accounts have been suspended for being connected to a network of accounts previously suspended for operating in violation of our rules.”
Friday’s indictment was the first by Mueller that directly charges the Russian government with meddling in the election. The Kremlin denies it interfered.
Speaking at a cybersecurity conference in Philadelphia on Saturday, US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the indictments proved that the United States “will not tolerate interference with our democratic processes and that there will be consequences for foreign meddling.”