Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOX) stock is climbing in pre-market trading after AT&T Inc. (T) and Time Warner Inc. (TWX) got approval for their $85 billion merger, prompting speculation of a bidding war for the Rupert Murdoch-controlled media group.
In early morning trading, Fox’s stock was up nearly 8% or $3.11 to $43.65, which indicates that it will open at an all-time high, potentially giving it a value of around $80 billion. With the court signing off on the AT&T and Time Warner’s merger, speculation is mounting that Walt Disney Co. (DIS) and Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) could get ensnared in a bidding war that pushes the price tag higher.
Disney has already offered to buy Twenty-First Century Fox for as much as $66 billion including debt, while Comcast has also expressed interest in making an all-cash offer for the media group. CNBC cited people familiar with the matter in a report yesterday that said Comcast will formalize its all-cash offer to acquire most of Twenty-First Century Fox on Wednesday.(See also: What a Disney, Fox Merger Could Mean for Netflix.)
Comcast Could Make All-Cash Offer
Last month, Reuters reported Comcast was aiming to land $60 billion in new financing to make an all-cash offer that outbids Disney. Sources at the time told Reuters the offer hinged on whether or not the AT&T/Time Warner deal went through. Several months earlier Comcast’s bid for Fox’s assets was turned down by the Murdoch family over concerns that a deal with the cable company would be blocked by regulators. That stance may now change in light of the court ruling on the AT&T/Time Warner deal. In pre-market trading, Disney’s stock was down 1.4% while Comcast was more than 3% lower. Shareholders of Fox are scheduled to vote on the Disney deal in July, noted the report. (See more: Comcast Lining Up Funds to Bid for Fox: Report.)
AT&T/Time Warner Deal Goes Through Without Conditions
On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon approved the AT&T/Time Warner merger without any conditions after the deal was challenged by the Department of Justice. The DOJ had argued the deal would hurt consumer choice and stifle competition, but the judge called those arguments “poppycock” in an opinion that slammed the government. "According to the government, consumers nationwide will be harmed by increased prices for access to Turner networks, notwithstanding the Government's concession that this vertical merger would result in hundreds of millions of dollars in annual cost savings to AT&T's customers and that no competitor will be eliminated by the merger proposed vertical integration," Judge Leon wrote according to TheStreet. "Ultimately, I conclude that the Government has failed to meet its burden to establish that the proposed 'transaction is likely to lessen competition substantially.'" His decision is expected to signal that media mergers can ensue, which will be welcome for an industry facing competition from new market players such as Netflix (NFLX), Alphabet’s Google (GOOG) and Amazon (AMZN).