U.K. Government to Announce Fox-Sky Deal Decision by July 12

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. government will give its final ruling on 21st Century Fox Inc.’s 11.7 billion pound ($15.5 billion) bid for Sky Plc by July 12, a decision set to trigger a bidding contest with Comcast Corp. for Britain’s top pay-TV company.

Jeremy Wright, who became culture secretary on Monday as part of a shake-up by Prime Minister Theresa May, said he would stick to plans to announce a decision imminently. “I intend to keep to the timetable,” Wright said in a written statement to Parliament.

Wright’s predecessor, Matt Hancock, was on the verge of clearing the Fox-Sky deal before being moved to run Britain’s health ministry. Fox is waiting for the government decision before upping its offer for Sky, as it aims to beat a rival 22 billion pound approach from Comcast, according to people familiar with the matter. On a per-share basis, Comcast’s offer is currently at a 16 percent premium to Fox’s 10.75 pounds a share.

The tussle for Sky is part of a wider battle between Comcast and Walt Disney Co. for the bulk of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. Each is trying to add more movies and shows to take on streaming competitors Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. Murdoch has agreed to sell Fox’s entertainment assets to Disney, including its 39 percent stake in Sky, though Comcast is considering making another counteroffer for the Fox portfolio.

Fox first bid for Sky in December 2016, but the deal has been held up over concerns that the tie-up would give Murdoch too much influence over Britain’s media. Hancock had said he was willing to let the takeover go ahead, provided Fox sold Sky’s 24-hour news channel to Disney.

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