Fox resumes sale talks with Walt Disney

Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox is reported to have resumed talks with Walt Disney over a sale of “most” of its business, including its Sky stake.

Talks between the two companies were believed to have ended last month.

But according to reports, including the Wall Street Journal – in which the Murdoch family has a large stake, the talks have now resumed.

Negotiations are said to include Fox’s movie and cable networks and international divisions, including Sky.

The rest of the group, which includes Fox News Channel, Fox broadcast network and its sports rights, are not believed to be up for sale.

Fox is currently in the process of trying to buy the rest of Sky that it does not already own. At the moment, it holds a 39% stake in the satellite broadcaster, but wants full control.

Regulators are scrutinising this deal due to worries over the level of influence it would give media companies controlled by the Murdoch family within the UK media landscape, as well as concerns over 21st Century Fox’s commitment to broadcasting standards.

Media analyst Claire Enders, founder of Enders Analysis, said the reported interest of Disney in Fox was “very credible”.

Ms Enders said for a “huge conglomerate” like Disney, a deal focused on consolidation would be “very sensible”, and allow it to save hundreds of millions of dollars though “combined efficiencies”.

But she said the talks would not be able to progress significantly ahead of a critical auction of UK Premier League rights early next year, which would potentially affect Sky’s valuation.

A Disney deal is not expected to prevent Fox’s pursuit of the rest of Sky’s shares. The takeover discussions come against the backdrop of upheaval in the media industry, as viewers turn increasingly towards online video, and away from subscriptions for pay-TV.

This shift is reportedly what has fuelled Disney’s approach; combining Disney’s extensive entertainment offering with Fox’s, might be a way to counter the growing threat from Amazon and Netflix.

US cable group Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, and telecoms operator Verizon are also reported to have expressed interest in Fox’s entertainment assets.

Analysts say changing consumer habits have also prompted media and entertainment executives to explore more consolidation of content creation and distribution functions.

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