UK subjects Rupert Murdoch’s Fox to wider probe over Sky takeover bid – Economic Times

LONDON: Rupert Murdoch faces months of fresh scrutiny over how he runs his media empire as UK authorities embark on a wider probe of 21st Century Fox Inc’s £11.7 billion-pound pursuit of pay-TV company Sky Plc.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley on Thursday said she has made a final decision to ask the nation’s competition regulator to investigate Fox’s commitment to broadcasting standards and whether its takeover of London based Sky would give the Murdoch family too much sway in the country’s media.

The extra review adds more delay and costs to Fox’s purchase of the 61% of Sky it doesn’t already own, Murdoch’s second attempt at the broadcaster he founded after a phone-hacking scandal at his newspapers derailed a 2010 bid. While the investigation opens the deal to more uncertainty, analysts see it as a necessary step toward probable approval.

“It’s very much making sure every base is covered, but it’s unlikely to make a big difference” as the deal will probably be approved, said Ian Whittaker, an analyst at Liberum Capital Ltd in London. Asking for a deeper probe of both broadcasting standards and media plurality helps Bradley diffuse any political tension and weaken potential legal appeals from opponents, he said.

Sky shares were little changed, trading at 933 pence as of 11:26 a.m. in London, a 13% discount to the offer price. In separate statements, Fox and Sky said they would engage constructively with the CMA.

Fox said it hoped Bradley would respect the findings of the independent authority and reiterated its view that the deal’s close would be pushed to as late as June 30, 2018, as a result of the CMA review, which can last six months. That follows delays for the transaction, which was announced in December 2016, as a result of a snap UK election in June and additional review requested by Bradley from communications regulator Ofcom.

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