Fox Reaches Final Stage of U.K. Review of Sky Takeover

(Bloomberg) -- 21st Century Fox Inc.’s takeover of Sky Plc has reached the home stretch of a U.K. review after a year-and-a-half of regulatory scrutiny over billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s second attempt to take control of the broadcaster he founded.

The Competition and Markets Authority sent Culture Secretary Matt Hancock its final report on Tuesday, kicking off a six-week timeline for a decision, which is due June 13.

“I will come to a view on whether to make a final order or accept any final undertakings in due course, and will consult on these publicly,” Hancock said in a separate statement.

Murdoch’s Fox has been awaiting clearance since December 2016 for its 11.7 billion-pound ($16 billion) bid for the 61 percent of Sky it doesn’t already own and now faces a rival proposal for Britain’s top pay-TV company from Comcast Corp. Sky’s shares have risen above Comcast’s 12.50 pounds per share offer in anticipation of a bidding war. Fox offered 10.75 pounds per share and investors expect it to come back with more.

If Fox acquires Sky, it plans to sell the broadcaster to Walt Disney Co. as part of Disney’s $52.4 billion acquisition of most of Fox, announced in December. If the Fox-Sky deal is blocked, Disney could be tempted to make its own outright bid for Sky.

In a provisional report in January, the CMA said the Fox-Sky deal would be against the public interest because it would give Murdoch too much influence over British media. Murdoch already owns the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times newspapers, while Sky News is the U.K.’s fourth-most used news source.

Fox has proposed remedies to address the regulator’s concerns, such as offering to give Sky News an independent editorial board or a proposal to sell the channel to Disney. Murdoch’s first attempt to take over Sky was scuttled in 2011 after a phone-hacking scandal at his newspapers.

The company said on Tuesday that its proposed remedies have been comprehensive and underscore a long-standing commitment to excellence and editorial independence at Sky.

“These enhanced remedies go above and beyond what Ofcom, the expert independent regulator on U.K. broadcasting, had stated would mitigate concerns around media plurality,” Fox said in a statement. “We now look forward to the Secretary of State’s decision.”

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