Comcast drops interest in 21st Century Fox deal

US telecommunications company Comcast has exited the race to acquire a significant share of media company 21st Century Fox’s business interests.

Comcast has been linked as one of main interested parties in such a deal, but said it has ended its interest in a statement issued yesterday (Monday).

The statement read: “When a set of assets like 21st Century Fox’s becomes available, it’s our responsibility to evaluate if there’s a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders.   

“That’s what we tried to do and we are no longer engaged in the review of those assets. We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer.”

Comcast’s decision comes after it was reported last week that media company Walt Disney was closing in on a deal. US business news television channel CNBC said Disney would acquire television and studio production assets, leaving Fox with its sports and news interests.

Fox was also said to be in talks with Comcast, but CNBC said negotiations with Disney had progressed more significantly, adding that a deal valued at more than $60bn (€51.8bn) could come as soon as this week.

CNBC said the proposed deal includes the sale of Fox’s Star network in India, regional sports networks in the US, Nat Geo, movie studios and stakes in European pay-television broadcaster Sky and US VOD service Hulu, among other properties. Fox would retain its news and business news divisions, broadcast network and Fox Sports.

The Reuters news agency said the Murdoch family, which controls Fox, prefers a deal with Disney because it would rather be paid in Disney than Comcast stock, adding that it expects a potential deal with Disney to receive US regulatory clearance more easily.

Fox is currently wrapped up in regulatory talks to acquire the remaining 61-per-cent stake in European pay-television broadcaster Sky. Reuters added that this deal is expected to be approved in the first half of 2018, adding that any deal with Disney would include the remaining stake of Sky.