THE long-running battle for Sky will be decided in a quick-fire auction finishing tomorrow evening.
The independent takeover panel said Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and US media giant Comcast have agreed to settle the tussle with a three-round auction that begins tonight at 5pm.
The winner will be announced ‘as soon as practicable’ after the auction finishes — a dramatic end to one of the most convoluted recent takeover sagas.
In July, Fox raised its bid for the 61 per cent stake in the UK broadcaster it does not already own to £24.5billion. Hours later Comcast responded with a £26billion offer.
Both bidders will be able to make increased offers if the auction runs to a third and final round. Shareholders will have to vote on the final bids by October 11.
It is rare for the takeover panel to run auctions, with Tata’s acquisition of steelmaker Corus in 2008 one of just a few in the past decade.
Mr Murdoch (pictured) failed to gain full control of Sky in 2011. In the latest battle, Fox made its original £11.7billion bid in December 2016.
Since then Fox has agreed to sell a major chunk of its business — including the existing 39 per cent Sky stake — to Disney. If Fox wins the battle to buy Sky before that deal closes, then Disney will take full ownership of Sky in its own takeover.
If Comcast takes over Sky, it will become the world’s biggest pay TV provider, with 52million customers after adding Sky’s 23million subscribers.
Both companies bidding for Sky are facing competition from Netflix and Amazon.
Bacon and Bird scramble for a smartphone
KEVIN BACON and Inbetweeners star Simon Bird hatch a cracking plan in an EE ad timed to mark the UK launch of the iPhone XS today.
The campaign features an envious Bird peering through the blinds and venting his fury at Bacon as his smug neighbour takes delivery of an XS.
The Friday Night Dinner actor gets ready to start chucking eggs — until bacon sarnie-eating Bacon tells him to get one over on his rival by getting the phone with operator EE.
Spokesman Pete Jeavons said EE had been top-ranked for five years so was ideal ‘for customers thinking about getting the new iPhone XS and wanting to out-tech their friends’.
Bank closures giving customers cash woes
NEARLY 3,000 high street bank and building society branches have closed in the past four years, a report has revealed.
It is a huge blow to customers who prefer to do their banking face-to-face, experts say.
The rise of bank cards as the most commonly used method of payment is also seeing cash machines close at a rate of 250 a month, reports Which? Money.
The consumer group’s Jenni Allen said: ‘Around 2.7million UK adults rely wholly on cash. We are worried these people, many of whom may be elderly or have mobility issues, will be left behind as banks disappear.’
■ ASTON Martin is aiming for a £5billion valuation when its shares begin trading next month. The luxury carmaker favoured by James Bond has set a price range for its London listing of £17.50-£22.50 per ordinary share.
■ DRINKS giant Diageo, the maker of Guinness and Smirnoff vodka, warned currency market ‘volatility’ is hurting sales and profits. It expects sales to be reduced by £175million this year and profits to fall by £45million.
■ FRENCH Connection has reported half-year losses of £15.1million before tax but insists it is on track to return to annual profit. The fashion retailer took an £800,000 hit from the House of Fraser collapse.
■ POUNDLAND is to take over 20 former Poundworld stores, creating 400 jobs. But the budget chain has urged high street landlords to ‘change their expectations’ and drop rents to reflect the ‘new realities of UK retail’.
■ CONSTRUCTION group Kier has had a nine per cent rise in annual profits and has a record £5billion order book, aided by Carillion’s demise. Pre-tax profits rose from £126million to £137million in the year to June 30.