The Government has said it does not intend to refer Comcast’s £22 billion (€25 billion) bid for Sky to competition authorities, raising the possibility of 21st Century Fox’s rival offer being sidelined.
British Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said that while he had the powers to intervene in the media merger, he did not believe the deal would raise public interest concerns.
“Having reviewed the relevant evidence available, I can confirm that I have today written to the parties to inform them that I am minded not to issue an EIN (European Intervention Notice) on the basis that the proposed merger does not raise concerns in relation to public interest considerations which would meet the threshold for intervention,” Mr Hancock’s statement explained.
He will now allow interested parties to submit written submissions until 5pm on May 24, before making a final decision on whether to intervene.
The move could clear the way for Comcast’s takeover of the UK broadcaster, having gatecrashed a rival £11.7 billion (€13.4 billion) offer for Sky from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox earlier this year.
Fox’s bid has already been subject to a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) probe, which was launched due to Mr Murdoch having significant interests in the media industry.
Concerns have been raised that adding Sky News into his media empire could threaten plurality in the UK’s news sector.
Disney has in the meantime agreed to snap up a raft of Fox assets including its 39% stake in Sky.
Mr Hancock recently received the CMA investigation into Fox’s bid, and is set to decide on whether the deal would be in the public interest by June 13.
If he decides against the deal, the Culture Secretary will then launch a consultation on what actions to take next.