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Fox Aims to Outfox & Outspend Comcast for Sky – Report

Jeff Baumgartner

In a move that would toss a monkey wrench into Comcast's ambitions across the pond, Rupert Murdoch and 21st Century Fox are preparing to put in a bid of $33 billion for Sky, the Financial Times reported Tuesday.

That would top Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s latest bid of £12.50 (US$16.57 per share) and put pressure on the US cable operator to respond with a bigger one and put Comcast’s desire for the coveted UK-based provider of broadcast, satellite and over-the-top video services (and the possibility of absorbing even more debt) to the test. (See Comcast Romps With Subs Gains, Sky Bid , Why Sky's the Limit for Comcast and UK Ruling Sparks Bidding War for Sky.)

21st Century Fox is preparing to make the new bid official this week if, as expected, its original bid for Sky (NYSE, London: SKY) gains UK government approval, the paper said.

Fox's reported plan to up the bidding for Sky would add to the drama and jockeying taking place among media heavyweights that aim to build scale for programming and video services, and effectively amplify the ongoing battle for supremacy between Comcast and Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS).

Comcast is making a play for both Fox and Sky, which has about 23 million customers across seven countries. Disney, meanwhile, has put up $71 billion for certain Fox assets, including its 39% stake in Sky. If Fox is successful, Disney stands to lock down full ownership of Sky. (See Comcast's Bid for Content, Growth & Whatever Comes Next and Comcast Makes $65B Bid for 21st Century Fox.)

In an effort to sooth antitrust concerns, Comcast has already begun to identify potential buyers for Fox’s regional sports networks, according to Reuters.

Last month, the US Department of Justice approved Disney’s bid for the Fox assets, with the condition that Disney, which owns ESPN, also divest Fox’s regional sports networks. In a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, Disney has already expressed that it would dump those Fox assets to win regulatory approval.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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