Comcast closes in on 40% of Sky shares days after US$39bn bid

Comcast has bought up 36.95% of Sky just days after it dealt a knock-out $39bn bid for the pay-TV broadcaster.

As of Wednesday (September 26), the business owns around 635m shares in Sky, according to an official statement from the London Stock Exchange, and is looking to make further market purchases at £17.28 per share.

Comcast – which had bought around 30% of Sky shares by Tuesday (September 25) – is encouraging shareholders outside of the US to contact Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The business requires more than 50% of Sky shares for its takeover. Sky’s board and shareholders have until October 11 to accept the offer.

Comcast emerged as the victor following an unusual three-round auction overseen by the UK’s Takeover Panel on Saturday (22 September), offering £17.28 per share and besting 21st Century Fox’s £15.67 per share offer.

Following the auction – a rare occurrence that was called because neither bidder had declared their offers to be final – Fox said it is “considering its options” regarding its 39% shareholding in Sky and will make further announcements in due course.

A number of scenarios have been floated around Fox’s plans for its 39% of Sky, with some analysts suggesting that the Disney-backed Fox could look towards a tit-for-tat trade with Comcast around SVOD service Hulu – a crucial chess piece for Disney as it looks to compete with digital giants Netflix and Amazon, and in which Comcast has a 30% stake.

However, it is believed that such a trade is prohibited by British takeover law, which would require a parallel deal made for Hulu.

Shares in Sky held steady at £17.27 in early London trading on Wednesday morning.

However, it has been a different story for Comcast since placing its billion-dollar bet on Sky. Shares in the business closed at $35.40 on Tuesday, down around 6% and reflecting investor concern that the business overpaid for Sky.

There are concerns, also, in the UK, where a recent YouGov report commissioned by sales platform Matrix Solutions showed that around half of British media consumers are worried that US companies moving to the UK will apply more control over its media.

Out of 2,117 UK adults surveyed, 48% noted that they are worried that US companies won’t understand the UK audience and will create more generic or US-centric content and advertising.

Meanwhile, 43% said they worried there might be an increase in the number of adverts shown. While Ofcom imposes maximum time periods for advertising each hour and on average, the research suggests more education is needed for consumers.

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