Apr 3, 2018

Fox tells Disney that he can buy Sky News in the UK

It moves one of two proposals designed to gain regulatory approval for the acquisition of Sky News.


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

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

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

Disney's interest in acquiring the news channel is the latest twist in a tricky takeover battle that puts Disney and Fox against Comcast Corp., by content and subscribers. Disney sees Sky as an important component in its business for Fox and the key to its plans to expand internationally.

Fox, who currently holds 39% of Sky, in December 2016 released his $16 billion bid to acquire the rest of the broadcaster he has not yet owned. The deal faced a series of regulatory obstacles. In a preliminary finding earlier this year, the United Kingdom's antitrust authorities said that the full ownership of Sky Fox and his Sky News business would give Mr. Murdoch much influence over the British media.

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

Earlier this year, Fox said it would take action to ensure the independence of Sky News to gain the support of regulators. On Tuesday, it showed a great desire to go further.

In February, Comcast announced $22.1 billion bidding plans, or $12.50 a part for all Sky, well above the Fox's offer of $10.75 a share.

Sky currently negotiates higher than Comcast's proposal, indicating that investors expect a bidding war. The parts of Sky were above 1% in $13.10.

-Adria Calatayud contributed to this article.

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