Comcast has approached 21st Century Fox about buying major assets, sources say

Saturday, 18 Nov, 2017

Shares in 21st Century Fox have soared after it emerged U.S. media giants Comcast and Verizon have joined Disney in attempting to acquire the company's assets. Nicolet Bankshares Inc. now owns 21,288 shares of the company's stock worth $562,000 after buying an additional 3,150 shares during the period. Walt Disney Co. engaged in similar talks with the Murdoch family last month, but those discussions broke off.

A Comcast-Fox deal probably wouldn't spell immediate disaster for Disney, but it could be worrisome.

Verizon Communications is also interested in acquiring parts of Fox, Dow Jones reported after the bell Thursday.

Verizon had expressed preliminary interest, according to people briefed on the matter, though one of them added that the company is not now interested in pursuing a deal.

This all comes on a backdrop of notable merger talks in the United States, with AT&T now in talks with regulators over its bid to buy Time Warner. The Department of Justice, meanwhile, reportedly wants AT&T to divest Turner Broadcasting, including CNN, to win approval of the Time Warner deal. What's more, the Justice Department has previously looked askance at Comcast's ambitions to get bigger.

The DOJ's antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, said at the American Bar Association on Thursday that the agency is not interested in placing "behavioral remedies" on the AT&T-Time Warner deal and is seeking structural solutions to competition issues. Comcast's market value stood at $173.3 billion. Comcast viewed the DreamWorks Animation purchase as the most efficient way to become a force in animation.

The acquisition would have excluded Fox News because Disney can not own two broadcast networks. NBC already has two cable news channels, CNBC and MSNBC.

Shares in media-entertainment giant 21st Century Fox surged to seven-month highs Friday after news it has been holding talks with at least three potential buyers for some of its television and film operations.

Zacks Investment Research cut shares of Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc.

"I think this is really Plan B", she said.

Variety notes that the overture by Comcast "comes a week after the media world was jolted by reports that Disney held preliminary talks with Fox about acquiring the same collection of assets in recent weeks". But if Comcast also aims to acquire Fox's US entertainment assets it could invite regulatory trouble, says Jayant.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the NBC owner would acquire the Fox movie studio and the global television distribution business. Comcast also operates sports networks, including regional sports channels in Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco.