Fox sets date for Disney vote as investor calls for Comcast to be given chance

21st Century Fox has called a special meeting of stockholders on July 27 to vote on Disney’s amended merger offer for the bulk of Fox’s assets.

The Fox board has recommended that shareholders vote in favour of the amended agreement. However, shareholder The Children’s Investment Fund Management (TCI) has reportedly called on Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch to give rival suitor Comcast a chance to revise its own bid in the light of Disney’s new US$71 billion offer.

According to multiple press reports, TCI, headed by Sir Christopher Hohn, has written to Murdoch to call for support for whichever is the highest bid and disagreeing with the Fox view that and agreement with Comcast would come with greater regulatory uncertainty.

Hohn claimed in his letter that the antitrust risks associated with a Comcast deal were no greater than those associated with Disney, and that this week’s clearance by the US Department of Justice of Disney’s bid – subject to the sale of a number of regional sports networks – actually set a precedent for a deal with Comcast.

This came after the Fox management committee tasked with evaluating the deals had indicated to shareholders that “a strategic transaction with Comcast continued to carry higher regulatory risk leading to the possibility of significant delay in the receipt of merger consideration as well as the risk of an inability to consummate the transactions”.

Hohn’s hedge fund holds a 7.4% stake in Fox. TCI previously pressured Fox to “immediately engage” with Comcast in May when the latter indicated it was minded to make a bid and ahead of its confirmed US$65 billion offer earlier this month.

Fox had previous set July 10 as the date for the stockholders’ meeting to vote on the Disney agreement, but then delayed the vote to enable shareholders to evaluate the revised terms and “other developments to date”.

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