Business

Sky stake changes hands in £39 billion Disney-21st Century Fox deal

BROADCASTING giant Sky is set to have a new owner after Walt Disney sealed a $52.4 billion (£39 billion) takeover of 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets.

The move will see Disney snap up a significant slice of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, including its film and television studios, cable entertainment networks and international TV businesses such as its 39 per cent stake in Sky.

As part of the deal, Disney will take on $13.7 billion (£10.2 billion) of debt, with shareholders in 21st Century Fox receiving 0.2745 Disney shares for each Fox share.

It means a wave of high-profile brands, TV stations and shows will fall into Disney's hands, from X-Men, Avatar and the Simpsons to FX Networks and National Geographic.

The entertainment giant will also seize control of Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox 2000, Fox Sports Regional Networks, Fox Networks Group International, Star India and Fox's interests in Hulu, Tata Sky and Endemol Shine Group.

Fox said it will press ahead with attempts to buy the 61 per cent of broadcaster Sky it does not already own before the Disney deal closes.

Despite speculation the takeover would see Fox chief executive James Murdoch installed as the boss of Disney, the company stressed that Bob Iger will remain chairman and CEO until 2021.

Mr Iger said: "The acquisition of this stellar collection of businesses from 21st Century Fox reflects the increasing consumer demand for a rich diversity of entertainment experiences that are more compelling, accessible and convenient than ever before.

"We're honoured and grateful that Rupert Murdoch has entrusted us with the future of businesses he spent a lifetime building, and we're excited about this extraordinary opportunity to significantly increase our portfolio of well-loved franchises and branded content to greatly enhance our growing direct-to-consumer offerings.

"The deal will also substantially expand our international reach, allowing us to offer world-class storytelling and innovative distribution platforms to more consumers in key markets around the world."

Taking debt into account, the takeover is valued at a larger $66.1 billion (£49.3 billion).

Shares in Sky took a turn for the worse following the announcement, sinking more than 1 per cent in early afternoon trading on the London Stock Exchange.

In a statement, Fox said: "We remain confident that the CMA and the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will approve the transaction on its merits, according to the statutory timeline, and we continue to expect the transaction will close by June 30, 2018."

Mr Murdoch is struggling to finalise the Sky takeover after Culture Secretary Karen Bradley referred the acquisition to Britain's competition watchdog for an in-depth investigation.

Ms Bradley shifted Fox's proposed takeover of Sky to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for a full inquiry earlier this year after a three-month probe by Ofcom.

The CMA is expected to report back as planned with its provisional findings in January.

Disney was left as the frontrunner for Fox after rival suitor Comcast pulled out of the race on Monday.

Fox executive chairman Rupert Murdoch said: "We are extremely proud of all that we have built at 21st Century Fox and I firmly believe that this combination with Disney will unlock even more value for shareholders as the new Disney continues to set the pace in what is an exciting and dynamic industry.

"Furthermore, I'm convinced that this combination, under Bob Iger's leadership, will be one of the greatest companies in the world.

"I'm grateful and encouraged that Bob has agreed to stay on, and is committed to succeeding with a combined team that is second to none."

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