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Comcast boss tells of London cab driver's role in £22bn Sky bid

02 March 2018

Sky, which provides sports programming, films and broadband to 23 million homes across Britain, Ireland, Germany, Italy and Austria, urged its investors to take no action since the approach did not represent a firm offer.

Unveiling the bid (PDF), Comcast CEO Brian Roberts described Sky as "an outstanding company" delivering "a fantastic viewing experience", which was a "consistent innovator".

Neil Wilson from ETX Capital said that after Comcast's own bid for Fox was rejected in favour of the Disney deal, there was every chance "Comcast would spoil Mickey's party".

The sudden arrival of Comcast creates some hard choices for Iger: Should he be content with Fox minus Sky, or should he entertain a costly bidding war with the US cable company? Why would it want to buy Sky and is a deal even likely to go through?

Sky also produces its own TV shows, and owns the European rights to a range of premium American shows including "Game of Thrones". "Our strong market positions are complementary, with Sky's leadership in Europe pairing nicely with our strong position in the U.S. Europe is obviously a highly attractive market, and this acquisition would create a leading platform for growth".

"We would like to own the whole of Sky and we will be looking to acquire over 50 per cent of the Sky shares".

Comcast said it planned to keep Sky headquartered in Osterley, would maintain its staffing levels, and would invest in creating more high-quality content. Roberts said Comcast thought the Sky deal could increase the United States giant's worldwide revenue to 25% of sales from 9%.

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Unlike the offer from 21st Century Fox, Comcast does not predict any issues with media plurality. Comcast is the biggest US cable-TV operator and also owns one of the largest film and television groups, NBCUniversal.

Walt Disney Co strikes a deal to buy film, television and worldwide businesses from Murdoch's Fox for $52.4 billion in stock, including its holdings in Sky.

Britain's competition regulator said in January his planned takeover should be blocked unless a way was found to prevent the Australian-born power-broker from influencing Sky's news operation. That may be because Roberts' real objective is to upset a $52 billion all-stock tie-up that Disney and Fox announced in December. Fox would hand full control of Sky to Disney if its takeover is successful. The 86-year-old mogul therefore has two options: revise the terms of the Disney sale to exclude Sky, or enter into a bidding war with Roberts.

The twist came after Britain's competition regulator provisionally ruled that Fox's offer was "not in the public interest".

In a statement, Comcast's Roberts said his company was "confident that we will be able to receive the necessary regulatory approvals".

During a taxi ride in London, Roberts says a cabbie taught him a lot about the features of Sky; that, combined with a visit to the provider's store, helped seal the deal in his mind.

Comcast boss tells of London cab driver's role in £22bn Sky bid