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The battle for 21st Century Fox intensified this week between Walt Disney and Comcast. Shares in Fox closed Wednesday’s session higher by 7.54% after Disney increased its bid for the Murdoch-run media conglomerate to $71.3 billion. That is equivalent to $38 per share in a deal that is a mix of cash and stock. It is a sharp increase from Disney’s previous offer of $28 per share, equivalent to $52.4 billion in stock, and tops rival Comcast’s $35 per share all-cash offer last week, which valued Fox at $65 billion. Fox has said that Disney’s latest offer is superior, and pressure is now on Comcast to return to the table with a counter-bid.
Fox must now choose between an all-cash offer from Comcast and a cash and stock mix from Disney. Some analysts say the Murdoch family may prefer the latter for tax reasons. Fox was scheduled to hold a shareholder vote on 10 July, but this has now been delayed to give the company time to make its decision.
Disney is close to getting the deal over the necessary regulatory hurdles, according to a Bloomberg report citing a person familiar with the matter, suggesting that the Justice Department could approve the tie up in a fortnight. Disney CEO, Bob Iger, said, ‘we have a much better opportunity in terms of approval and the timing of that approval than Comcast does in this case,’ suggesting that he is confident about winning the deal.
Disney’s increased bid to top Comcast is a ‘smart strategic poker move’, according to GBH Insights’ head of technology research, Daniel Ives. He says this will help Disney ‘to catalyse its streaming and content ambitions over the coming years. This deal, if successful in its battle with Comcast, would put Disney in the catbird’s seat in terms of being the content king, and with its streaming service set to launch in 2019, Iger has a clear runway to gain market and mind share from the likes of Netflix’. Ives said that if Comcast beats Disney to these Fox assets, it would be a ‘devastating and hard to recover blow’, underscoring the significance of this media battle.