Sky’s warning over future of Sky News

Sky is the owner of Sky News

By Ian King, Business Presenter

Sky News could be closed, its parent Sky plc has warned, if it proves to be an impediment to the latter's takeover by the global news and entertainment company 21st Century Fox.

The takeover, which values the whole of Sky at £18.5bn, was proposed just before Christmas last year.

The deal has been delayed by two investigations, first by Ofcom, the media and telecoms regulator, and now secondly by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

It is not expected to report back to Karen Bradley, the Culture Secretary, until the end of March next year.

One of the major strands of the CMA's investigation is whether a takeover of Sky would affect media plurality in Britain in view of the fact that both Fox and News Corporation, the owner of UK newspaper titles including The Sun, The Times and the Sunday Times, are 39% owned by the family trust of Rupert Murdoch.

Mr Murdoch is chairman of both companies.

But in its submission to the CMA, which was published on Tuesday evening, Sky warned that the "continued provision of Sky News should not simply be assumed" if the takeover were not to go ahead.

It said: "The CMA should not simply assume the 'continued provision of Sky News' and its current contribution to plurality, 'absent the transaction'.

"Sky would likely be prompted to review the position in the event that the continued provision of Sky News in its current form unduly impeded merger and/or other corporate opportunities available in relation to Sky's broader business, such as the transaction."

Sky added that it would have to "take regard" of the views of its shareholders regarding the denial of such opportunities.

Fox, the world's fourth-largest media company and producer of TV hits such as The Simpsons and Modern Family, has previously pledged to continue broadcasting news under the Sky News banner for at least five years – and with at least the same budget as at present – should its takeover of Sky go ahead.

A separate review by the European Commission has already given a green light to the takeover.

The deal has already also been approved by regulators in all of the other countries – Germany, Italy, Ireland and Austria – in which Sky broadcasts.

The submission to the CMA comes just hours after it emerged that Fox has discussed selling some of its entertainment assets to Walt Disney Company, the world's second largest media company after Comcast, the US cable giant which owns broadcaster NBC and the Hollywood film studio Universal.

Assets that Disney discussed buying from Fox include the cable television channels FX and National Geographic, the Twentieth Century Fox film studio, Star TV in Asia and Fox's shareholding in Sky.

However, under the City Takeover Panel's rules, Fox is not allowed to walk away from its bid for Sky until October next year in the absence of any invokable conditions and assuming that the CMA and Ms Bradley approve the takeover.

Shares of Sky, which are valued at 1075p each under the terms of the takeover, were trading this lunchtime up 4p at 934p.

City analysts believe the size of the discount to the offer price reflects uncertainty that the CMA will recommend that the deal goes ahead.

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