Murdoch's last attack on the air fight: Mogul hires lobbyists to seal the megadeal of TV channels
- The MoS has learned that 21st Century Fox has hired an influential consultancy firm
- It offers support from Sky shareholders for the bid of 1400p-a-share
- So far, Comcast 1475p has offered a share – defeating Murdoch's bid with 75p
Ben Harrington, Financial Mail on Sunday
21st Century Fox by Rupert Murdoch prepares for a final attempt to gain control over media giant Sky as the final deadline for the £ 26 billion takeover battle.
The Mail on Sunday has learned that 21st Century Fox has hired an influential consulting firm for canvas support by Sky shareholders for the 1400p-a-share bid on the FTSE 100-listed channel before the last roll of the dice.
The movement has caused speculation that the octogenarian media mogul – working with Walt Disney, the American media giant in the process of buying the bulk of the 21st Century Fox with him – is ready to take a rival offer from the American cable group Comcast to surpass.
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An insane bidding war could break out with the approach of the 22 September deadline for final bids. Investors are stuck for a fiery conclusion of the fight that has been going on for six months. So far, Comcast has offered 1475p a share – Murdoch's bid with 75p beat – and the board of independent board members of Sky has recommended investors to accept this.
According to City sources, 21st Century Fox has appointed secret lobbying firm Georgeson, as a result of which investor Melrose recently won the £ 8 billion hostile bidding for blue-chip engineering giant GKN.
Van Georgeson is understood to have asked Sky investors in the past few days what they think of the current 21st Century Fox offer and is trying to gauge what would improve Murdoch and Disney's chances of success.
Sky stocks have recently traded up to 1540 pounds, as investors speculate that 21st Century Fox and Disney are considering a "knockout" offer to deter Comcast. The Takeover Panel, the respected regulator of the city, has told the two rival parties that if none of their bids has been accepted by the shareholders by the deadline, it will hold a formal auction.
Octogenarian media mogul Rupert Murdoch
The originators then have the opportunity to submit revised offers in an orderly process that is managed by the Takeover Panel.
Disney – led by potential US presidential candidate Bob Iger – and Comcast began last year to fight for Murdoch's 21st Century Fox assets. The main fight was won by Disney, which agreed to pay a huge $ 71 billion (£ 55 billion) for the majority of assets, including film and TV studios. As part of that deal, it is also in line to receive Fox's 39 percent stake in Sky.
Murdoch had separately made an offer to purchase the remaining 61 percent of Sky, possibly adding it to the 21st Century Fox assets list before the deal with Disney was completed. Comcast launched a separate bid on Sky while trying to buy 21st Century Fox.
Some of Sky's largest shareholders have already said that the company can be significantly more valuable than Comcast's 1475p share offer. Crispin Odey, the colorful manager of hedge funds, said earlier this summer that Sky could be worth as much as £ 50 billion – more than double what Comcast and 21st Century Fox have offered for the company.
Odey, once married to Murdoch & # 39; s daughter Prudence, owns about 0.61 percent of Sky and is a long-term shareholder. Last June, Odey said: Debts are so easy to operate and so cheap that they can easily pay 1800 pence for Sky.
& # 39; If your free cash flow looks like it's going to be £ 2.5 billion, what it should do within a year, what do you want to pay for it? Well, you are willing to pay £ 50 billion – or about 2600p a share. & # 39;
Both 21st Century Fox and Sky refused to comment.
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