We may just have a bidding war on our hands after all.
We reported previously that Comcast had an eye 21st Century Fox’s film and television assets, which Disney is currently in the process of buying. At the time, our knowledge of the situation was that “people familiar with the matter” had been cited by CNBC as claiming that Comcast might be jumping into the fray. Now, a good deal more information has emerged with regard to Comcast’s interest in Fox.
To recap, it was announced in December that a deal had been reached for Disney to acquire Fox’s film and television studio along with a variety of other entertainment assets for some $52.4 billion. From here, the sale has to be confirmed by federal regulators, a process which can take upwards of a year. Only then will the sale be finalized. In this case, the approval process is complicated by the fact that the Justice Department has sued to prevent a merger between AT&T and Time Warner. This case, which will go before a federal judge in March, is being treated as a regulatory bellwether for the sorts of mergers that will be permitted under the Trump administration. With that in mind, any serious action with regard to the sale of Fox’s assets is likely to depend at least in part on the outcome of the AT&T/Time Warner case.
Comcast is not exactly a newcomer to this particular negotiating table. In fact, last year the telecom giant made an approximately $60 billion bid for the Fox assets, which was rejected in favor of Disney’s offer. Supposedly, Comcast’s offer was rejected in part because of regulatory concerns (specifically relating to media consolidation) could thwart such a deal, though it’s also worth noting that the $52.4 billion that Disney brought to the table was in the form of stock. Even if Comcast sent a representative with $60 billion in a briefcase, the fact that Disney stock is widely seen as some of the most lucrative on the market could well have tipped the scale in their favor.
Thanks to a report in the Wall Street Journal, we know that Comcast is nonetheless considering a follow-up offer. Nothing has yet been firmly decided, and any action on Comcast’s part is said to hinge on the outcome of the aforementioned AT&T/Time Warner case and the ways in which Fox justifies the Disney deal in regulatory filing. It’s also possible that instead of trying to outbid Disney for the whole enchilada, Comcast may focus on a specific asset, such as Fox’s 30% stake in Hulu (which constitutes a controlling interest).
Of course, Disney isn’t spending $52.4 billion just to get outbid. If Comcast does make a new offer, don’t expect the Mouse House to stand on the sidelines. However things shake out, the next few months are going to be interesting.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more on this story as it develops.