Sky bid tussle to be settled by auction

The sale will be the biggest ever deal in UK to be decided by a panel-run auction

The takeover battle for Sky plc, the owner of Sky News, will be decided in a three-round auction to conclude on Saturday evening, it was announced today.

The tussle for Sky is the final leg of a fight between Comcast and Walt Disney Co. for the bulk of Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

"In order to provide an orderly framework for the resolution of this competitive situation, and in accordance with Rule 32.5, the panel executive has, after discussions with the parties, established an auction procedure", the regulator said in a statement. In the opening round, the would-be buyer with the lower offer now on the table - meaning Fox at this point - makes the first bid.

Since Fox made its first bid almost two years ago, it has agreed to sell a major chunk of its business - including the existing 39% Sky stake - to U.S. entertainment behemoth Walt Disney.

"Shareholders will be delighted at how this has all played out, having seen the share price double since just before the original offer was made by Twenty First Century Fox nearly two years ago", said Laith Khalaf, a senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Fox's sale of its film and TV assets to Disney will only include its stake in Sky in the event that its bid to assume full control of the British broadcaster is not accepted.

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Comcast now leads Fox in the fight with a 14.75 pound a share offer that values the broadcaster at 25.9 billion pounds ($34.2 billion) and has been recommended by the pay-television group's independent directors.

An auction for Sky, which broadcasts to 23 million households across Europe, would the biggest ever deal in the United Kingdom to be decided by a panel-run auction. (Walt Disney, however, has agreed to acquire a big portion of Fox for roughly $71 billion, including a stake in Sky.) Murdoch still has ambitions to boost his holdings in the United Kingdom media prize.

The auction begins at 1600 GMT on Friday, Sept. 21. They will do so knowing what their rival has done in the previous round, a source close to the process said.

The takeover of broadcaster Sky will be settled by an auction, the UK's Takeover Panel has announced.

Comcast entered the bidding war for Sky in February when it said it was considering making an offer, according to the Takeover Panel.

For Comcast, Sky offers a chance for growth - a company with proven quality in sports and entertainment together with the technology to deliver it.

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