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.


Vietnam jails activist for anti-government posts on Facebook

Updated 25 September 2018
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Vietnam jails activist for anti-government posts on Facebook

  • The conviction comes as communist authorities step up a crackdown on dissent
  • Some 97 activists were in jail as of April this year, according to Amnesty International

HANOI, Vietnam: A court in southern Vietnam has sentenced an activist to 27 months in prison for Facebook posts that judges say insulted the ruling Communist Party and government and called for anti-government protests.
Doan Khanh Vinh Quang, 42, was convicted “abuse of democratic freedom to infringe on the legitimate interests of the state” by the People’s Court in Ninh Kieu District in Can Tho province after a one-day trial Monday, the Vietnam News Agency reported.
The agency quoted judges as saying Quang’s actions “actively abetted hostile and reactionary forces from inside and outside the country” who want to overthrow the party and government.
Court officials were not available for comment Tuesday.
The conviction comes as communist authorities step up a crackdown on dissent. Quang was third activist to be jailed in a week on similar charges.
On Saturday, Nguyen Hong Nguyen and Truong Dinh Khang, were convicted of insulting the Communist Party and its leaders, including late founding President Ho Chi Minh, and sentenced to two years and one year respectively in separate cases in Can Tho province.
Despite sweeping economic reforms over the past 30 years that opened Vietnam to foreign investment and trade that made it one of fastest growing economies in the region, the Communist Party tolerates no challenge to its one-party rule.
Some Western governments and international human rights groups criticize Vietnam for jailing people for peacefully expressing their views. Hanoi says only lawbreakers are put behind bars.
Some 97 activists were in jail as of April this year, according to Amnesty International.