Fox Merger Eyed After AT&T-Time Warner Ruling

14 Juin, 2018, 03:17 | Auteur: Christine Menetries
  • Pawns on a chessboard

Comcast made a $65-billion United States bid Wednesday for Fox's entertainment businesses, setting up a battle with Disney to become the next mega-media company.

The $85 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner was approved Tuesday.

In the most high-profile antitrust case in decades, the ruling is likely to set a benchmark for whether other mega-deals, especially in the media and communications sectors, can proceed or will face heightened antitrust scrutiny.

Comcast was "disappointed when [21st Century Fox] made a decision to enter into a transaction with The Walt Disney Company, even though we had offered a meaningfully higher price", Roberts wrote. "This is even higher than the Street thought, which speaks to Comcast really wanting these key assets".

The judge's decision could open the door to other mergers, including Comcast Corp. making a formal bid for the 21st Century Fox, which gained as much as 7.3 percent after the ruling and is also the target of competing interest from Walt Disney Co.

Comcast said it meant to pursue its $30 billion acquisition of Sky Plc (SKYB.L) in parallel with its Fox bid.

Content is becoming more important as ways to deliver content proliferate.

If AT&T is successful in its bid to buy Time Warner, it will nearly certainly find itself competing in a media market dominated by other large, integrated providers. Disney is planning on launching its own streaming service next year that will feature family-oriented content and has already launched a sports service for its ESPN all-sports cable network. But hey, if Comcast does wind up with Fox, you can just change your dreams and begin contemplating a world where Alien vs. Predator vs. Comcast, a distributor of content, would have access to Fox's popular franchises like X-Men and the Avengers as well its its production studios, to broadcast to its subscribers. It bought NBCUniversal's cable channels and movie studio in 2013 and added Dreamworks Animation in 2016. If Comcast buys Fox and Sky, the cable giant could become one of America's largest corporate borrowers and its credit ratings may teeter at the bottom edge of investment grade. A combined company would hold the rights to air Fox's long running TV show "The Simpsons", the US rights to the Olympics and Premier League Soccer. The companies also are interested in expanding internationally at a time when the U.S. television business is slowing. That's key for Comcast, which now doesn't have an worldwide presence.

But some experts urged caution in thinking that the DOJ's top antitrust official Makan Delrahim would allow a Comcast-Fox deal to go through unopposed.

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The Fox board was scheduled to vote on whether or not to accept the Disney deal on July 10, so we may be in for a flurry of new bids over the next few weeks. The $35 per share offer represents a 19% premium on Disney's $52.4 billion all-stock offer for the same assets.

Regulators are now reviewing the Disney transaction.

In turn, that could drive up what consumers pay.

Outside of court, however, critics of the lawsuit pointed to Trump's frequent criticism of CNN, which is owned by Time Warner.

They are fighting over Fox's television and film studios, as well as global properties, including Star India and Sky.

That could raise regulatory objections. "The question is whether Disney is ready because unlike in 2004, Comcast is in it to win!"

Initially, the companies planned to use a "selective enforcement" defense, alleging that the administration was blocking the deal because of Trump's disdain for CNN. It is also being reported by Variety that AT&T Watch will be offered to AT&T Wireless customers for free.

Comcast today offered to match the $2.5 billion breakup fee that Disney previously agreed to.

Image: Disney also wants to buy Fox.

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