The UK has said it is unlikely to refer Comcast’s bid for Sky for a lengthy investigation by regulators after an initial review found that the $30bn (€25.5bn) offer did not raise public concerns about media ownership.
The UK’s media minister Matt Hancock said, however, that he would give interested parties until 5pm on Thursday to respond before giving his final decision on whether the deal should be examined by British as well as EU officials.
Sky is at the centre of a bid battle between Comcast, the world’s biggest entertainment company, and Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox, which founded the British pay-TV group and already owns 39%.
Unlike Comcast, Fox has faced lengthy political and regulatory delays. After agreeing an initial takeover in 2016, it is still waiting for the British government to say whether it should be allowed to buy Sky. Hancock said the Comcast bid was unlikely to be challenged.
“I am minded not to issue a European Intervention Notice on the basis that the proposed merger does not raise concerns in relation to public interest considerations which would meet the threshold for intervention,” he said of the Comcast offer.
Comcast’s bid for Sky is, however, being examined in Brussels after the company notified the European Commission of its intention to buy the group which broadcasts in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.
Next month Fox will find out from the UK whether it is permitted to buy Sky, while Comcast will receive a verdict from European authorities, which could potentially end the regulatory uncertainty attached to the deal, and pave the way for a takeover battle on price.