Disney's Fox Deal Gets European Union Clearance Subject to Divestments

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Walt Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger

The European Commission had the chance to approve the $71.3 billion takeover as is, require concessions or open a four-month investigation.

European antitrust regulators have approved Walt Disney's $71.3 billion acquisition of the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox subject to conditions, namely the sale of the company's stakes in Europe in such networks as Lifetime and History.

The European Commission made the announcement late Tuesday European time.

"To address the Commission's competition concerns, Disney committed to divest its interest in all factual channels it controls in the European Economic Area (EEA), namely: History, H2, Crime & Investigation, Blaze and Lifetime channels," the European Commission said. "These channels are currently controlled by A+E Television Networks, which is a joint venture between Disney and Hearst. The commitments fully remove the overlap between Disney's and Fox's activities in the wholesale supply of factual channels in the EEA."

It added: "Therefore, the Commission concluded that the proposed transaction, as modified by the commitments, would no longer raise competition concerns. The Commission's decision is conditional upon full compliance with the commitments."

Disney said: "We are gratified by the decision of the European Commission to clear the transaction with the sole remedial measure being the divesting of our interests in Europe of the History, H2, Crime + Investigation, Blaze and Lifetime channels. Disney will continue to be a 50 percent owner of A&E apart from the companies operating these channels in Europe."

It added: "We continue to pursue clearance as quickly as possible in the jurisdictions that remain."

The European Commission had set a deadline for Tuesday to either approve the takeover as is, require concessions or, in the case of serious concerns, open a four-month investigation into the deal. The conditional approval had been seen as likely given that regulators previously said Disney had offered concessions, without detailing them.

The U.S. Justice Department gave the green light to the deal in June on the condition that Disney sell off Fox’s 22 regional sports networks.

The deal will see Disney, led by chairman and CEO Bob Iger, acquire Fox's TV and movie studios, its FX Networks and National Geographic operations, TV giant Star India and Fox's stake in Hulu. It was originally also scheduled to include Fox's 39 percent stake in European pay TV giant Sky, but the companies recently said they would sell that stake given Comcast won an auction for Sky in September. It will, however, include Fox's 50 percent stake in Endemol Shine after it emerged earlier on Tuesday that the TV production powerhouse's current owners had called off a sale.

Disney fought off a counter bid for Fox from Comcast by sweetening its own offer.