Comcast outbids Fox with $40 billion offer for Sky in auction

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp and co-chairman of 21st Century Fox, arrives at the Sun Valley Resort of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 10, 2018 in Sun Valley, Idaho. (AFP)
Updated 23 September 2018
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Comcast outbids Fox with $40 billion offer for Sky in auction

  • Disney agreed a separate $71 billion deal to buy most of Fox’s film and TV assets, including its existing 39 percent stake in Sky, in June and would have taken full ownership after a successful Fox takeover

LONDON: Comcast beat Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox in the battle for Sky on Saturday after offering 30.6 billion pounds ($40 billion) in a dramatic auction to decide the fate of the pay-television group.
The US cable giant bid 17.28 pounds a share for control of London-listed Sky, bettering a 15.67 pounds-a-share offer by Fox, Britain’s Takeover Panel said.
Buying Sky will make Philadephia-based Comcast, which owns the NBC network and Universal Pictures, the world’s largest pay-TV operator with around 52 million customers.
Chairman and chief executive Brian Roberts has had his eye on Sky as a way to help counter declines in subscribers for traditional cable TV in its core US market as viewers switch to video-on-demand services like Netflix and Amazon .
“This is a great day for Comcast,” he said. “This acquisition will allow us to quickly, efficiently and meaningfully increase our customer base and expand internationally.”
Comcast’s knock-out offer thwarted Murdoch’s long-held ambition to win control of Sky, and is also a setback for US entertainment giant Walt Disney which would have likely been its ultimate owner.
Disney agreed a separate $71 billion deal to buy most of Fox’s film and TV assets, including its existing 39 percent stake in Sky, in June and would have taken full ownership after a successful Fox takeover.
Comcast’s final offer was significantly higher than its bid going into the auction of 14.75 pounds, and compares with Sky’s closing price of 15.85 pounds on Friday.
Comcast believed it needed to deliver a knock-out blow given that Fox’s existing stake in Sky gave it a chance of victory if it was a close second to Comcast, two sources said.
Comcast’s final offer — more than double Sky’s share price before Fox made its approach in December 2016 — quickly won the backing of Sky’s independent directors on Saturday.
“We are recommending it as it represents materially superior value,” said Martin Gilbert, chairman of Sky’s independent committee. “We are focused on drawing this process to a successful and swift close and therefore urge shareholders to accept the recommended Comcast offer.”
Fox will now concede defeat, a source told Reuters.
It is reviewing options for its stake, a holding that stems from Murdoch’s role in the creation of the company nearly three decades ago, the source said.
Fox declined to comment.
Comcast, which requires 50 percent plus one share of Sky’s equity to win control, said it was also seeking to buy Sky shares in the market.

HUGE PRICE
One hedge fund manager who holds Sky shares said nobody could complain about the Comcast price.
“The question now is if Fox actually sells out and if not can Comcast get to 50 percent,” he said.
Another hedge-fund manager said it was a “huge” price, and shareholders would accept it.
Sources familiar with the matter said Fox, Disney and Comcast had not been in discussions about the 39 percent stake.
The quick-fire auction marked a dramatic climax to a protracted transatlantic bidding battle waged since February, when Comcast gate-crashed Fox’s takeover of Sky.
It is a blow to 87-year-old Murdoch and the US media and entertainment group that he controls, which had been trying to take full ownership of Sky since December 2016.
Murdoch’s son James, currently chairman of Sky, was instrumental in building the company into the leading European pay TV group, with operations in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy, and more than 23 million customers attracted to its top-flight sport and entertainment content.
Sky’s chief executive Jeremy Darroch said it was the beginning of a new chapter. “Sky has never stood still, and with Comcast our momentum will only increase,” he said. ($1 = 0.7648 pounds)


Internet a lifeline for Venezuela’s embattled independent media

In this file photo taken on June 13, 2019 A journalist works in one of the newsrooms of the Panorama newspaper in Maracaibo, Venezuela. (AFP)
Updated 17 July 2019
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Internet a lifeline for Venezuela’s embattled independent media

  • Regional newspaper Panorama, which served Venezuela’s second city Maracaibo, struggled on until May 14 when “a perfect storm” of massive power cuts finally sounded it’s physical death knell

CARACAS: Starved of advertising revenue and battling a stranglehold on the newspaper industry by the government, Venezuela’s independent media have been decimated by the country’s years-long crisis — with many migrating online to survive.
“It was a course we couldn’t get away from,” Jorge Makriniotis, manager at the 75-year-old El Nacional, told AFP.
The newspaper ran its last physical edition — which had already dropped from 72 to just 16 pages — on December 13 last year.
Like many other former print media, it is only available on the Internet now.
In 2013, Venezuela’s socialist government created a state-run company to control the import and distribution of paper.
Carlos Correa, director of the Espacio Publico non-governmental organization, said the move created “discriminatory dynamics” that saw pro-regime media favored — while others were starved of printing paper, and advertising revenue.
Since then, 58 daily newspapers have ceased circulation, Correa says.
“There’s never been an official response” to the claims from independent media, said Gisela Carmona, the director of El Impulso — one of the papers that has migrated online, requiring an investment of more than a million dollars.
After 100 years in print, the newspaper disappeared from the streets in February 2018, having received no paper for 12 months.

Beyond controlling paper supply, critics accuse the Venezuelan government of oppressing dissenting media voices across the board.
The national union of press workers has denounced a “systematic policy” of asphyxiation as dozens of independent radio and television stations also closed.
“Over the past years, the Government has attempted to impose a communicational hegemony by enforcing its own version of events and creating an environment that curtails independent media,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in a report on Venezuela earlier this month.
One example from 2018 saw El Nacional lose a case brought by Diosdado Cabello, widely regarded as the most powerful regime figure after President Nicolas Maduro, for having published drug-trafficking allegations made against him in the Spanish press.
The economic crisis had a major impact on the media too, as on all businesses.
Five years of recession and rampant hyperinflation — which the International Monetary Fund expects to reach a staggering 10 million percent this year — have decimated advertising revenues.
Carminda Marquez opened a kiosk in Caracas 18 years, selling dozens of newspapers and other publications.
“Now I sell three or four,” said the 80-year-old.
Regional newspaper Panorama, which served Venezuela’s second city Maracaibo, struggled on until May 14 when “a perfect storm” of massive power cuts finally sounded it’s physical death knell, its editorial director Maria Ines Delgado told AFP.
Panorama never had to lay off any journalists as one by one they resigned and left for foreign shores.
“Every time we replaced one, another left,” Delgado said from a near-empty editorial room.
Like El Impulso, Panorama is now fed by banner advertising.

The move online has not solved independent media’s myriad problems, though, least of all the ability to reach readers.
Between frequent power outages, patchy Internet and the second slowest connectivity in Latin America — after landlocked Paraguay — readers have trouble loading pages, especially on smartphones.
“We know nothing any more,” complained Belkis Nava, who used to read Panorama.
Despite the difficulties, some journalists have launched new media directly on the Internet, such as El Pitazo.
Specializing in investigative journalism — it won the prestigious Ortega y Gasset prize awarded by Spanish newspaper El Pais this year — El Pitazo supported itself through a 2017 crowdfunding campaign, director Cesar Batiz told AFP.
However, like other news websites, El Pitazo has come under cyberattack — four times over two years.
Before the first attack in 2017, El Pitazo had 110,000 visits a day. Traffic has since dropped by more than half, and 65 percent of that comes from abroad.
“People aren’t receiving information,” said Melanio Escobar, the director of the Redes Ayuda (Network Help) NGO.