LONDON – U.S. cable operator Comcast has formally notified the European Commission of its intention to bid for Britain’s pay-TV group Sky, starting the clock on a review, a regulatory source told Reuters on Monday.
Comcast is racing to get ahead of Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox in the battle to buy the European company, and the notification in Brussels is a key development.
Comcast, the world’s biggest entertainment company, stunned the industry in February when it made an informal £22 billion ($30 billion) bid for Sky, taking on Fox, which is in the final stages of its own bid to buy the 61 percent of Sky it does not already own.
Comcast made its bid formal in April and the notification in Brussels starts the clock on the regulatory review. It is keen to show Sky’s investors that it can get through the regulatory process quickly, unlike Fox which has faced repeated delays.
The Fox-Sky deal has been held up by concerns about the influence Murdoch could wield over public opinion through owning all of the broadcaster as well as British newspapers including The Times and The Sun.
The original combination has also been further complicated by Fox’s agreement to sell many of its TV and film assets to Walt Disney Co, including its stake in Sky, for $52 billion (£37.3 billion).
The regulatory source declined to be named because the process is not public. Comcast declined comment.