Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox has been given the green light to take over European broadcaster Sky, paving the way for the creation of a media empire that will span two continents and take on major emerging rivals.
The company struck a preliminary deal to snap up the 61 per cent of Sky that it does not already own in December last year.
The offer of £10.75 a share in cash, valuing the deal at £11.7bn, was at the time backed by Sky’s independent directors but became subject to intense scrutiny on concerns that a deal might breach competition rules.
In March, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said she had concerns relating to media plurality and the combined company’s commitment to broadcasting standards.
She referred the deal to Ofcom and the European Commission on Friday said the regulator now has until 16 May to investigate and report on whether the transaction is, or may be, against the public interest of ensuring a sufficient number of people are in control of media enterprises.
But on Friday the EU offered it its seal of approval “unconditionally”.
“The commission concluded the transaction would raise no competition concerns in Europe,” it said in a statement.
“Fox and Sky are mainly active in different markets in the Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the UK,” it added.
“They compete with each other only to a limited extent, mainly in the acquisition of TV content and in the wholesale supply of basic pay-TV channels.”
21st Century Fox in a statement said that it welcomed the EU’s decision.
“We now look forward to continuing to work with UK authorities and are confident that the proposed transaction will be approved following a thorough review process,” it said.
The takeover comes five years after Mr Murdoch's last tilt at taking full control of the business through News Corporation and will likely strengthen the position of James Murdoch – who is both chief executive of Fox and chairman of Sky – in his father’s media empire.
Reuters last year reported that Fox will take on about $10bn of debt to fund the acquisition.
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