Comcast Races to Scoop Up Sky Stock to Clear $39 Billion Bid

(Bloomberg) -- Comcast Corp. boosted its ownership of Sky Plc above 30 percent as it rushes to buy up shares after trumping rival 21st Century Fox Inc. with a $39 billion bid for the British satellite television company.

Comcast made the market purchases at 17.28 pounds per share, the price of its knockout offer in a weekend auction for Sky, and is seeking to buy more, the company said Tuesday.

The purchases show the largest U.S. cable carrier is wasting no time in trying to secure the more than 50 percent of Sky it needs to take control. Sky shareholders have until an Oct. 11 deadline to tender their stock to Comcast.

Sky, based in London, offers Comcast 23 million customers in Europe, a slate of popular shows and rights to the world’s most valuable soccer league. It also brings Comcast scale, reach and technological expertise to better compete with digital rivals like Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.

Moving above the 30 percent ownership threshold makes it mandatory for Comcast to offer the same price to any Sky shareholder interested in selling, under U.K. takeover rules.

Sky shares rose 0.4 percent to 17.28 pounds at 8:48 a.m. in London.

While Comcast Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts bets big on a European expansion, the cable carrier’s shareholders aren’t fully convinced. The Philadelphia-based company’s shares fell 6 percent in New York on Monday, amid concerns about the cost of the takeover. But the company’s top shareholder on Monday said the stock plunge is a buying opportunity.

Sky was the last piece of billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s media empire in play after Comcast lost a separate takeover battle for Fox to Walt Disney Co. Fox, which has an existing 39 percent stake in Sky, is considering whether to tender its shares to Comcast if Disney supports the move, people familiar with the matter said on Saturday. Fox has said that it’s weighing its options regarding the holding.

Independent directors at Sky have recommended accepting Comcast’s offer, which was 9 percent above Sky’s share price going into the auction.

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