Media analysts do not believe regulators would block a takeover of Sky by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.
Fox said last night it had reached an agreement in principle to acquire the 61 per cent of Sky it does not already own for £10.75 per share. This would value Sky at £18.5bn.
Murdoch’s News Corporation attempted to takeover Sky in 2010. But the bid was withdrawn the next year, at the height of the phone-hacking scandal, amid political and regulatory scrutiny.
And Vince Cable, the former business secretary who referred that bid to regulators, has said a deal now would not be in the public interest, telling the BBC it threatened media plurality.
The way Theresa May's government deals with this is a test of their independence from the influence of large proprietors.
But media analysts appear to believe the deal could not be blocked on plurality grounds.
Since the last takeover bid, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has been split into two: new News Corporation, which comprises the newspaper and publishing side of the business; and 21st Century Fox, the entertainment side of the business.
This means that a 21st Century Fox takeover of Sky would not see the broadcaster become part of the same business as the News UK, which publishes the Times, Sunday Times and Sun.
“I think it’s very likely that even if there is a plurality investigation that this will go through,” Claire Enders, of Enders Analysis, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.
And it will go either very fast – i.e. it will be concluded within six months because there is no plurality investigation, or it will take another few months after that, so it will conclude, say, within a year.
It is a different situation, and the entities have been structured differently. And, of course, Rupert Murdoch is no longer at the fore of managing any of these entities.
Ian Whittaker, a media analyst at Liberum, said on Friday afternoon that he did not believe this deal would be subject to a regulatory block.
He said in a note: “The UK government is keen to promote investment in the UK post-the Brexit vote. We doubt therefore it would want to veto what could be viewed as a major sign of confidence in the UK market.”
Rupert Murdoch is the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, having previously been chief executive and chairman of the company since its inception as News Corporation in 1979. His sons James and Lachlan are chief executive and executive chairman of the company.