Walt Disney Co.’s deal to buy film, television and international businesses from Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. will value the latter at over US$40 per share, or US$75 billion, Reuters reports, citing a person familiar with the matter.
The deal, set to be announced on Thursday, will end more than half a century of expansion by Murdoch, 86, who turned a single Australian newspaper he inherited from his father at age 21 into one of the world’s most important global news and film conglomerates.
Under the terms of the all-stock deal, Fox assets that will be sold to Disney, including the 20th Century Fox movie and TV studio, cable networks and international operations, will be valued at around US$29 per share, the source said on Wednesday.
Fox’s remaining assets, focused on news and sports, will be offered to existing Fox shareholders in a new company likely to be valued at more than US$11 per share, according to the source, who asked not to be identified ahead of an official announcement.
Disney and Fox did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Fox shares ended trading on Wednesday at US$32.75, giving it a market capitalization of around US$60 billion. The Wall Street Journal first reported the exact terms of the deal.
The deal will mark a return by Murdoch to focus on the news business, his lifelong passion. Australian-born Murdoch inherited his father’s newspaper business in 1952 and transformed it over many years, acquiring premiere properties such as the Wall Street Journal, the London Times and the 20th Century Fox movie studio.
Murdoch’s shift to selling assets rather than buying them has come as a surprise to many who expected him to hand over the businesses to his sons, James and Lachlan.
Under the deal, Disney will gain access to 46 million subscribers in three major markets, the United States, Western Europe and India, according to Barclays analysts.
It also diversifies Disney’s revenue as US cable television subscribers decline. Fox’s Star business in India, for example, is projected to earn US$1 billion before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization by 2020, Fox executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch said at a Business Insider conference in November.
It is not clear how the deal will be treated by US antitrust regulators, given that it looks set to reduce competition among movie studios. The US Department of Justice recently sued to block AT&T Inc.’s US$85.4 billion deal to buy Time Warner Inc., on the basis that it will raise prices for consumers and competitors.
None of the Murdochs are expected to be given board seats at Disney, according to the sources.
Disney has been struggling to bolster its TV business as cancellation of cable subscriptions is pressuring its biggest network, sports channel ESPN.
The Fox deal brings marquee franchises inside the Mouse House, on top of Disney CEO Bob Iger’s previous purchases, including Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Entertainment and “Star Wars” producer Lucasfilm.
Disney also will buy Fox’s stake in the Hulu video streaming service, giving it majority control of the competitor to Netflix Inc. Hulu also is partially owned by Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Inc.
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