Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) has made a surprise offer for Sky plc after months of scoping out the U.K. broadcaster's technology platform and content proposition of sports and entertainment across five countries, reports Bloomberg. The telecommunications giant now heads off against Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOX), which bid 18.5 billion pounds, or nearly $26 billion, in December 2016 for a 61% stake in Sky that it did not own. Comcast's $31 billion challenge sets the media players up for a full blown bidding war, according to various industry experts, reports CNBC.
"I think is is apparent right now that we are going to see a bidding war for Sky," said Paolo Pescatore, the vice president of multiplay and media at CCS Insight. Alex De Groote, a digital and media analyst at Cenkos Securities echoed this sentiment, indicated that the "opportunistic" bid by the U.S. cable television behemoth would propel the companies into an all-out action. He suggested that the market's early reaction to the news, causing Sky shares to jump more than 20%, implies that investors think there will be a bidding war.
It is not yet clear whether Fox, controlled by the Murdoch family, will counter Comcast's offer. The most recent bid for Sky by the owner of NBCUniversal is about 16% higher than Fox's offer.
Keeping an Eye on Fox and Disney
In a separate deal late last year, the Walt Disney Co. (DIS) agreed to buy key parts of Fox, including Sky, for $52.4 billion in efforts to beef up its streaming and television business. The question is now whether Disney, run by Chief Executive Bob Iger, will extract Sky from the Fox bid and decide to make an offer of its own for all of the company. If Fox decided to counter Comcast's bid, it would likely need approval from Disney.
Analysts at Jefferies expect that either a bidding war between Fox and Comcast, or that Disney will make a "direct offer to Sky shareholders."
"[Disney CEO Iger] has described Sky as the 'crown jewel' asset among the Fox operations he is seeking to acquire. Just as with Comcast, adding more international distribution (direct to consumer) and content production is strategic to countering Netflix, Amazon, etc.," wrote analysts at Jefferies on Tuesday. "A counter-bid from [Disney] would avoid the regulatory complexities/delays in much the same way as the Comcast approach." (See also: Disney, Fox Deal Would Be a Win-Win: Macquarie.)