Fox CEO Murdoch: Sky deal ‘on track’

James Murdoch

James Murdoch

21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch has claimed his company’s £11.7 billion takeover of European pay TV giant Sky remains on course.

The deal is currently under investigation in the UK, with an Ofcom inquiry not ending until after the general election on June 23.

With Fox under fire in the US over the conduct of Fox News presenters and resistance to the takeover from numerous UK factions, speculation has arisen over whether the deal will be approved.

However, Murdoch told analysts on an investor call yesterday that Fox felt assured it would go ahead.

“We continue to work with UK regulators and we’re confident that the proposed transaction will be completed by the end of this calendar year as we said before,” he said.

His father, Rupert and brother, Lachlan Murdoch (Fox’s executive co-chairmen), made the same assertion in a statement accompanying financial results for the three months to March 31, 2017.

The European Union has already given the deal the greenlight, meaning only UK watchdogs can now nix it.

Murdoch noted Sky “continues to deliver on its growth strategy recently reporting good financial performance with subscriber growth across the group”.

Fox’s latest quarterly revenues came in slightly below expectations at US$7.56 billion, though this as up year-on-year.

Operating income was down US$33 million compared with the same three months in 2016, coming in at US$811 million.

Cable networks brought in US$4.02 billion in revenue, up slightly on 2016, with the broadcast TV segment up from US$1.3 billion to US$1.69 billion.

Meanwhile, the reporting line that covers Fox’ stake in Endemol Shine Group, streaming service Hulu and Indian pay TV business Tata Sky lost US$51 million.

This was up from a US$9 million loss in 2016, and was attributed to “higher equity losses reported at Hulu and Endemol Shine Group”.

Fox also revealed it had spent US$45 million on “settlements of pending and potential litigations” relating to former news chief Roger Ailes, who left after a sexual harassment case was brought against him.

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was also axed after allegations over his conduct surfaced, while the cable channel’s co-president, Bill Shine, has also exited.

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