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Disney must bid for all of Sky even if Fox deal is blocked, says watchdog

Walt Disney must bid for the whole of Sky even if Rupert Murdoch’s £11.7 billion offer for the pay-TV giant is blocked, Britain’s Takeover Panel has ruled.

The panel said that if its offer for Fox assets succeeds, Disney must bid to take full control of Sky and match Fox’s £10.75-a-share offer for the 61% of Sky it does not already own.

It will come as a blow to Disney, which is understood to have wanted flexibility in whether or not to bid for the rest of Sky should regulators block the Fox bid.

Fox said in a statement it expects the Disney deal to complete after its offer for Sky goes through.

It added: “21st Century Fox remains committed to its recommended cash offer for Sky announced on 15th December 2016, which is supported by revised remedies recently offered to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) with whom 21st Century Fox has been co-operating in order to bring the UK regulatory process to a swift and satisfactory conclusion.”

Fox faces a number of regulatory hurdles after the UK’s competition watchdog found the £11.7 billion deal was “not in the public interest”.

The CMA is now weighing up whether to recommend Fox’s deal for Sky to Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, who must decide to either approve or block it.

On making its ruling, The Takeover Panel said that “securing control of Sky might reasonably be considered to be a significant purpose of Disney’s acquiring control of Fox” and therefore Disney must make an offer within 28 days of buying the Fox assets.

But it said that the ruling would not stand if Fox’s deal for Sky is approved and goes through before Disney acquires Fox assets, or if rival Sky bidder Comcast acquires a stake of more than 50% in Sky.

US broadcaster Comcast has mounted its own £22.1 billion takeover approach for Sky.

The group, which has a broadband arm serving 29 million US customers, owns NBC and Universal Pictures and wants to seize more than 50% of Sky.

Sky said it noted the panel ruling and advised shareholders to take no further action at this time.

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