Walt Disney Co. raised its offer to purchase most of 21st Century Fox to more than $71.3 billion in cash and stock, topping an unsolicited offer from rival Comcast Corp. and escalating the bidding war for the coveted media properties.
Disney ’s new offer is far higher than its original deal, $52.4 billion in stock, and surpasses Comcast’s all-cash offer of roughly $65 billion. In addition to having the higher offer, Disney said it also has a regulatory advantage over Comcast in winning a company to help it fight back against new-media competitors like Netflix Inc.
Fox, in a news release, said the new Disney deal “is superior to the proposal” made by Comcast earlier this month. A Comcast spokeswoman had no immediate comment.
Disney agreed to pay Fox shareholders roughly 50% in cash and 50% in stock. If the current deal closes, Fox shareholders would own 19% of the combined company, compared with 25% under the old deal.
The fight for Fox is part of a scramble by media, telecom and cable companies to get bigger as technology-industry superpowers disrupt old ways of doing business.
Neither proposed deal includes Fox News, Fox Sports 1, the Fox broadcast network or its television stations. In either scenario, those assets would be spun off into a new company, for the moment dubbed “New Fox.”
Disney’s introduction of cash into its latest bid would mean that the spinoff of New Fox was no longer tax-free to shareholders, as it had been in its previous all-stock deal, according to independent tax analyst Robert Willens.
“The deal on the table has one negative, and that is that, with New Fox, all the shareholders have to pay a tax,” said Mario Gabelli, chairman and CEO of Gamco Investors, which owns Fox stock. However, he added, “that was the same as the Comcast bid,” which was all-cash.
For more details from WSJ on the merger proposal, click here.
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