The Walt Disney Co. has raised its offer for 21st Century Fox’s key assets to $71.3 billion, potentially outflanking Comcast Corp. in a quickly escalating bidding war.
The move comes a week after Comcast, the telecommunications conglomerate, countered Disney’s $52.4 billion all-stock deal with a bid of $65 billion in cash. Disney’s amended offer, made as Fox’s board convenes for a regularly scheduled meeting, is a combination of cash and stock.
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At stake is such Fox assets as FX Networks, National Geographic, a 30-percent stake in Hulu, a 31.9-percent stake in U.K. pay-TV and broadband provider Sky, and the 20th Century Fox film and television production studios, which include the movie rights for the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool, among other properties.
“We are extremely proud of the businesses we have built at 21st Century Fox, and firmly believe that this combination with Disney will unlock even more value for shareholders as the new Disney continues to set the pace at a dynamic time for our industry,” Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, said in a statement issued this morning. “We remain convinced that the combination of 21CF’s iconic assets, brands and franchises with Disney’s will create one of the greatest, most innovative companies in the world.”
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Analyst Paul Sweeney suggested to Bloomberg that Comcast’s debt may prevent the company from offering much more for Fox. The largest cable-television provider in the United States, Comcast owns NBC and Universal Pictures, among other assets.
The frenzy over Fox began last week after a federal judge approved AT&T’s $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner, over the objections of the U.S. Justice Department, giving the telecommunications giant control of the parent of Warner Bros., DC Entertainment, CNN and HBO. That the signal Comcast had been waiting for to make its own offer for Fox with little fear that a merger would run afoul of antitrust laws.