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Bid for assets gains momentum

Thursday, December 07, 2017

WALT Disney Co is in the lead to acquire much of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's media empire, though rival suitor Comcast Corp remains in contention, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The Murdoch family, which controls Fox, prefers a deal with Disney because it would rather be paid in Disney than Comcast stock and expects a potential deal with Disney to be cleared by US antitrust regulators more easily, one of the sources said.

However, no deal between Disney and Fox is imminent and several issues have yet to be fully negotiated, the sources said.

The Reuters sources asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential. Fox and Comcast declined to comment, while Disney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fox is exploring a potential sale because it is has been considered undervalued relative to its peers, said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research.

"At the beginning of this year, Fox was the only buy-rated stock I had because it was so depressed relative to everything else in the sector," Mr Wieser said.

Fox Chief Executive James Murdoch, speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York on Tuesday, declined to comment on reports about a potential sale.

"It's always good to look at what's going to create the most value for our shareholders," he told attendees.

Disney, which has a market value of around $166 billion, would acquire Fox's FX and National Geographic cable channels, its movie studio, the Star network in India and stake in European pay-TV provider Sky PLC.

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