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.


WhatsApp to limit message forwarding

This photo illustration shows an Indian newspaper vendor reading a newspaper with a full back page advertisement from WhatsApp intended to counter fake information, in New Delhi on July 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 July 2018
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WhatsApp to limit message forwarding

  • Indians forward more messages, photos and videos than any other country in the world

NEW DELHI: WhatsApp announced curbs on its service in India on Friday in an effort to stop a spate of horrific lynchings and to assuage government threats of legal action in its biggest market.
More than 20 people have been killed by mobs in the past two months across the country after being accused of child kidnapping and other crimes in viral messages circulated on WhatsApp.
The Facebook-owned firm said on Friday that in India it will test limiting the ability of users to forward messages, and will also experiment with a lower limit of five chats at once.
It addition, it said it will “remove the quick forward button next to media messages,” a statement said.
“We believe that these changes — which we’ll continue to evaluate — will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app,” it added.
Under pressure from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the firm had already announced new features to help users identify messages that have been forwarded.
WhatsApp had also bought full-page adverts in Indian newspapers with tips on how to spot misinformation.
But in a strongly worded statement released late Thursday, India’s information technology ministry said the action taken was not enough.
“Rampant circulation of irresponsible messages in large volumes on their platform have not been addressed adequately by WhatsApp,” the ministry said.
“When rumors and fake news get propagated by mischief-mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability,” it said.
“If (WhatsApp) remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action.”