Apr 3, 2018

Fox Says Disney Could Buy U.K.'s Sky News

Move is one of two proposals aimed at winning regulatory approval for Sky takeover

By Ben DummettUpdated April 3, 2018 5:01 a.m. E.T.

21st Century Fox Inc. FOX -1.90% on Tuesday said Walt Disney Co. DIS -1.77% was prepared to buy Sky SKYAY 0.22% PLC's news channel, a move that would help Fox consolidate its ownership of the European pay-TV operator.

The possible sale of Sky News to Disney is Fox's latest attempt to allay concerns in Britain that a takeover of Sky would give Rupert Murdoch too much influence over the country's media.

It comes as Disney pursues a separate $52 billion bid to acquire much of Fox, including its film studios and stake in Sky. Fox said Disney is open to acquiring Sky News even if the larger transaction doesn't proceed.

Disney's interest in acquiring the news channel is the latest twist in a complicated takeover battle that pits Disney and Fox against Comcast Corp. , the U.S. cable giant, in a battle for content and subscribers. Disney views Sky as an important component of its deal for Fox and key to its plans to expand its international footprint.

Fox, which currently owns 39% of Sky, in December 2016 launched its $16 billion bid to acquire the rest of the broadcaster that it doesn't already own. The deal has faced a series of regulatory hurdles. In a preliminary finding earlier this year, U.K. antitrust authorities said Fox's full ownership of Sky and its Sky News business would give Mr. Murdoch too much influence over British media.

The Murdoch family controls a 39% voting interest in both Fox and News Corp , a major U.K. newspaper publisher with titles including the Sun, the Times of London and the Sunday Times. News Corp also owns The Wall Street Journal.

Earlier this year, Fox said it would take steps to ensure the independence of Sky News to win support from regulators. On Tuesday, it indicated a willingness to go further.

In February, Comcast announced plans to bid £22.1 billion , or £12.50 a share for all of Sky, well above Fox's offer of £10.75 a share.

Sky currently trades higher than the Comcast proposal, indicating that investors expecting a bidding war. Sky shares were up 1% at £13.10 in morning trading in London.

—Adria Calatayud contributed to this article.

Write to Ben Dummett at ben.dummett@wsj.com