Comcast has emerged as the top bidder for European broadcaster Sky after a rare auction held by British regulators. After three rounds of secret bidding on Friday and Saturday, Comcast offered what the Wall Street Journal calls the "stratospheric" price of $22.58 per share for Sky, the equivalent of nearly $39 billion. Rival 21st Century Fox offered $20.47 per share. In a statement, Sky recommended that shareholders accept Comcast's offer and sell their shares immediately, reports the AP. Comcast said it hoped to complete the takeover by the end of October. "Sky is a wonderful company with a great platform, tremendous brand and accomplished management team," Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. "This acquisition will allow us to quickly, efficiently and meaningfully increase our customer base and expand internationally."
Britain's regulator, the Takeover Panel, set up the auction to reduce uncertainty for Sky after months of offers and counteroffers from the American media giants. Sky is Europe's largest pay-television operator, with 22.5 million customers in seven countries and popular programming including English Premier League soccer and Game of Thrones. Fox owns 39% of Sky. It now must decide whether to sell its stake or remain a minority shareholder. A bidding war emerged last December, when Comcast made an offer for Fox's entertainment assets, which Walt Disney Co. is in the process of buying for about $71 billion. Comcast eventually dropped out of that contest to focus on its acquisition of Sky. Its winning bid came at a steep price. Comcast initially made a $31 billion bid for Sky last February, then raised that bid to $34 billion in July.
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