Comcast preparing cash counter-offer for 21st Century Fox assets

New York (AFP) –


US media and cable giant Comcast said Wednesday it preparing an all-cash offer for the key television and entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox that would top an offer on the table from Walt Disney Co.

Comcast said it is in "advanced stages of preparing" the offer for the assets Fox agreed to sell to Disney in a stock deal announced in December.

The bidding war is over Fox assets -- not including Fox News Channel or Fox Business Network -- that Disney in December said it would purchase for $52.4 billion.

Comcast, which owns the NBCUniversal media-entertainment group and is the largest US cable operator, said it was prepared to pay more that Disney.

"Any offer for Fox would be all-cash and at a premium to the value of the current all-share offer from Disney," the Comcast statement said.

"The structure and terms of any offer by Comcast, including with respect to both the spin-off of 'New Fox' and the regulatory risk provisions and the related termination fee, would be at least as favorable to Fox shareholders as the Disney offer."

Either deal would dramatically reshape the media-entertainment landscape and scale back the Fox empire created by Rupert Murdoch, 87.

Murdoch, who with his family controls 21st Century Fox, agreed to the tie-up that would give Disney the famed Fox studios in Hollywood along with Fox's international TV operations and US cable entertainment and regional sports channels.

Included in the sale is Fox's stake in the British pay TV operator Sky.

Murdoch has sought full control of Sky but has faced opposition from regulators in Britain.

Some reports said Murdoch had previously rejected an offer from Comcast. But the controlling family and shareholders would face pressure if the new offer is better than the one from Disney.

Either deal could face intense scrutiny from antitrust regulators because of the implications for the television and cinema sectors.

The move comes with Murdoch gradually withdrawing from the empire he built, giving more authority to his sons Lachlan and James.

The group announced last week that Lachlan Murdoch would assume the role of chairman and chief executive at the "new" Fox, which would be tightly focused around the Fox News Channel and sports cable channels.