Comcast May Revisit Bid for Parts of 21st Century Fox (Report)

Rupert Murdoch - 2015 TIME 100 Gala - Getty - H 2017
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In December, the cable giant said it didn't get a full chance to bid against Walt Disney.

Comcast Corp. may look to revive its bid to acquire parts of 21st Century Fox despite the cable giant's bowing out of the process in December just before the Walt Disney Co. unveiled its $52.4 billion deal for various of the company's businesses, according to a Wall Street Journal report Sunday.

Fox accepted the Disney deal, which included the 20th Century Fox movie and TV studio, all the international pay TV properties including its stake in Sky, as well as a number of other assets.

Comcast's bid was reportedly higher at $60 billion, but Fox didn't fully engage in final talks due to worries over anti-trust issues. 

"It's unclear whether such a bid would be welcome or hostile and how the Murdochs feel about it," RBC Capital Markets analyst Steven Cahall said about a potential new Comcast takeover offer for parts of Fox. "Recall that the Murdoch Family Trust owns about 39 percent of the voting class B shares, so their view is nearly, but not quite, all that matters."

In December, Comcast had said: “When a set of assets like 21st Century Fox's becomes available, it’s our responsibility to evaluate if there’s a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders. That’s what we tried to do and we are no longer engaged in the review of those assets. We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer. We have a terrific company with a strong portfolio of businesses and will continue to focus on driving growth, innovating, creating great content, and providing excellent experiences for our customers."

A Comcast representative declined to comment on a potential new run at Fox.

“As our 2017 performance across NBCUniversal demonstrates, our wonderful team have put us in a position to succeed in these rapidly evolving media businesses in this changing landscape," Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said on the company's earnings conference call late last month. "Not every company can say that. With the pace of change in the industry accelerating, many of our peers are reevaluating their strategies, as we've seen recently. So along the way there may be opportunities for us to create more value for our shareholders, like we did with NBCUniversal. In this respect, it shouldn't be a surprise that we study every situation that comes along. We believe our shareholders expect this from us. But the bar is set high, and we have been and will remain disciplined.”

He later added: "Let me just reiterate what I sort of said earlier. We always are looking for ways to create more value for shareholders, from opportunities...where we find capital to invest in the business; or new businesses...or what we're doing with the Olympics. At the same time, you look at inorganic opportunities that come along, and you have a bar. I think I'd say that there's nothing we feel we have to acquire, and I think that's an important point to emphasize. So I think we set it high."

But Roberts also emphasized: "We've created value for shareholders, I think, in almost every instance [of an acquisition], and that's certainly the goal when we do so. So, our most recent example would be the Japan theme park. And stay tuned. We'll see if we can execute. But, so far, we feel terrific about that. And obviously NBCUniversal, as I mentioned before, is the biggest example.”