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.


Indian journalist condemns Twitter for blocking account after abuse online

Updated 19 February 2019
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Indian journalist condemns Twitter for blocking account after abuse online

  • Dutt's account was blocked after she posted details of men who allegedly stalked and threatened her
  • Dutt accused Twitter of being “vile enablers of sexual abuse and violence”

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: One of India’s best-known women journalists, Barkha Dutt, launched a scathing attack on Twitter Inc. on Tuesday for temporarily locking her account after she posted details of men who allegedly stalked and threatened her.
Dutt said some people had posted and circulated her phone number on Twitter, enabling the harassment, which she said included threats of rape and images of genitalia being sent to her phone.
Dutt tweeted some of the threats and images on Monday, and she included phone numbers and names of the men who allegedly threatened her, after which her account was suspended.
She posted her complaint against Twitter in a tweet on Tuesday, after her account was re-activated.
“I would like to place on record my absolute horror and disgust at Twitter’s encouragement of sexual abuse and gender inequality,” said Dutt, a former managing editor at news channel NDTV and a regular columnist with the Washington Post.
Dutt accused Twitter of being “vile enablers of sexual abuse and violence.”
Twitter said it did not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons and it referred to its rules that users may not publish or post other people’s private information without their express authorization and permission.
“If we identify a Tweet that violates the Twitter Rules, there are a range of enforcement options we may pursue. These include requiring a user to delete a Tweet, and/or being temporarily locked out of their account before they can Tweet again,” a spokeswoman for Twitter said in an email.
The social media platform is already facing scrutiny in India.
Its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has been called to appear before a parliamentary panel this month to discuss initiatives being taken to safeguard citizen’s rights on social media and online news platforms.
The hearing comes soon after the conservative Youth for Social Media Democracy group accused Twitter of left-wing bias and protested outside its office in New Delhi this month.
Dorsey did not appear at a hearing earlier this month.
A person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Tuesday the parliamentary panel had written an email to Dorsey, reiterating its demand that he appear at a Feb. 25 hearing.
Twitter declined to comment on whether Dorsey would attend.
Social media giants in India are being put under greater scrutiny ahead of a general election due before May, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling party are seeking re-election.
Several social media companies are overhauling policies to curb misinformation ahead of the vote.