US cable giant Comcast on Thursday dropped its US$66 billion bid for the entertainment assets of Twenty-First Century Fox, saying it will now focus on gaining control of European broadcaster Sky.
The withdrawal marks a concession to Walt Disney Co, which last month sweetened its offer for the Fox assets to US$71.3 billion.
Comcast’s move de-escalates one of the media industry’s most high-profile confrontations, which pitted Comcast CEO Brian Roberts against Fox Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch and Disney CEO Bob Iger, Reuters reports.
However, it still leaves the industry giants competing to expand in Europe via a bidding war for Sky, which is 39-percent owned by Fox, the report noted.
Comcast is seeking to acquire the remaining 61 percent of Sky that Fox doesn’t own, leaving it in a battle with Fox which is seeking to acquire the stake itself.
Fox has made an offer for 61 percent of Sky, although Comcast is currently the highest bidder with an offer worth US$34 billion for the London-based pay TV group.
In a regulatory filing last week, Fox and Disney acknowledged for the first time they may not try to again outbid Comcast on Sky, but sources told Reuters that no decision has been taken.
Comcast dropped its bid for the Fox assets because it was concerned the price was becoming too high, even though its banks were ready to finance a new bid, according to the Reuters sources.
The company was also worried how much revenue it would lose in divesting assets to appease US antitrust regulators.
“I’d like to congratulate Bob Iger and the team at Disney and commend the Murdoch family and Fox for creating such a desirable and respected company,” Comcast’s Roberts said in a statement on Thursday.
Disney owns ABC, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel Studios and “Star Wars” producer Lucasfilm, plus an array of theme parks.
The Fox assets being acquired include a cable group with FX Networks, National Geographic and 300-plus international channels, plus Fox’s stake in Hulu.
Comcast first made an offer for the Fox entertainment assets last November, but Fox decided to go with Disney, even if its bid was lower, because it believed a deal with Comcast would not win antitrust approval.
The US Department of Justice last month approved Disney’s deal with Fox.
– Contact us at [email protected]