21st Century Fox Shares Soar After Reports Comcast, Verizon Interested in Acquisition

Rupert Murdoch attends the TIME 100 Gala - Getty-H 2017
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Shares of the Murdoch-owned company surged 8 percent higher in after-hours trading on Thursday.

Disney isn't the only conglomerate interested in purchasing some of 21st Century Fox, as news emerged Thursday that Comcast, too, has approached the Murdoch-controlled media company to see if it would part with its film studio and other assets. And later in the day, reports surfaced that Verizon, too, is in the mix.

News of the negotiations hit after the closing bell on Wall Street and caused shares of Fox to surge 8 percent higher in after-hours trading.

Comcast, which already owns NBC, would not be allowed to purchase the Fox broadcast network — just as Disney would not, since it already owns ABC — but several of Fox's cable channels could be bundled with the film studio for a price some analysts say could hit $20 billion.

Verizon, though, probably wouldn't be legally restricted from acquiring the Fox broadcast network, though it was unknown Thursday whether that particular asset was something Verizon wants to buy or Fox wants to sell.

If Fox were to sell many of its assets, it would leave the Murdochs — Rupert and sons Lachlan and James — with a company more narrowly focused on news and sports, perhaps freeing it up to more easily expand globally, as it is trying to do by acquiring the 61 percent of Europe's Sky satellite TV service that it doesn't already own.

The Murdochs also control News Corp, owner of The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets worldwide, and some observers speculate that the family might want to sell much of Fox, then merge that slimmed-down company with News Corp. The Fox News Channel would presumably not be sold to Comcast, Disney or any other suitor.

Comcast and Fox were not immediately available for comment, but CNBC, which is owned by Comcast, reported that talks between the two companies are ongoing. The outlet also reported that the assets Comcast is interested in acquiring — and that Fox is willing to part with — are the same ones that interested Disney.

Verizon also was not immediately available for comment.

Shares of Fox closed 2 percent higher during the regular session on Thursday to $29.32, leaving it with a market cap of $53.7 billion. The stock jumped another $2.26 after the closing bell, while shares of Comcast and Verizon rose modestly on the news.