Rupert Murdoch’s £11.7bn (€13.2bn) bid to take full control of Sky has been given the green light by regulators in Ireland, leaving the UK’s decision the last remaining hurdle for the deal.
The Irish government has followed the likes of Austria, Germany and Italy in giving the takeover the thumbs up ahead of this week’s initial decision by UK culture secretary Karen Bradley.
Mr Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox needs the approval in all the territories in which it operates for its plans to buy the 61% of Sky it does not already own.
British regulator Ofcom submitted its public interest report to the government last Tuesday, while the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also handed over its assessments of the deal.
Ms Bradley must now decide whether or not to refer the deal for a fuller ‘’phase 2 investigation’’ by the CMA, considering Ofcom’s findings on whether the deal is in the public interest and if Fox’s directors meet a ‘’fit and proper’’ test.
The culture secretary said she will aim to make a statement in parliament detailing her ‘’minded to’’ decision by tomorrow. There will then be an opportunity for representations to be made before a final decision is taken.
The Irish clearance was welcomed by 21st Century Fox, which has also gained approval for the deal by the Commission in April as well as by the Jersey competition authority.
Sky’s shares, at around 963p at current prices, remain below the £10.75 offered for each share by the US-quoted 21st Century Fox, which suggests investors are nervous that the deal will be blocked.
Mr Murdoch and his family have long coveted full control of Sky, despite the damaging failure of a previous attempt in 2011 when their British newspaper business became embroiled in a phone-hacking scandal which forced them to drop the bid.
The attempt faced opposition from media industry rivals and politicians before it was scuppered by acute pressure on the company brought about by phone-hacking claims involving News International.
While Mr Murdoch has hived off the newspapers into a separate company, News Corp, critics of the deal this time around argue the family are still the ultimate owners of both the newspaper and TV assets in the UK and therefore have substantial control over the UK news media.
Mr Murdoch is chairman of News Corp and co-chairman of 21st Century Fox with his son Lachlan. James Murdoch is chief executive of 21st Century Fox and chairman of Sky.
It is thought 21st Century Fox could offer a legal separation of Sky to address these concerns, including an independent editorial board.
There have also been allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News in the US, which have led to calls for the Sky takeover to be blocked. Fox News dropped its biggest star Bill O’Reilly in April when advertisers abandoned his ratings machine The O’Reilly Factor in droves. It followed a New York Times investigation into settlements made to a number of women who accused him of sexual harassment.
Fox, which owns cable, film and pay-TV assets around the world, says the media market has changed dramatically in recent years as broadcasters face new challenges from streaming services like Netflix.
Press Association, Reuters and Irish Examiner staff
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