US media giant Comcast has dropped out of the running to buy 21st Century Fox, leaving Disney as the main contender, according to reports.
Bloomberg reported that Comcast had said in a statement: “When a set of assets like 21st Century Fox’s becomes available, it’s our responsibility to evaluate if there’s a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders.
"That’s what we tried to do and we are no longer engaged in the review of those assets. We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer.”
That leaves Disney, which was reported to have begun talks with Fox last week, in the lead - although Verizon is also thought to have expressed an interest in the assets, including Fox's film, TV production, cable network and international assets, which includes its stake in British broadcaster Sky.
Fox is simultaneously attempting to buy the 61 per cent of Sky it does not already own, although progress has been slowed by Karen Bradley, the minister for culture, media and sport, who referred the £11.5bn merger to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Any bidder for the Fox assets would be expected to follow through on the Sky deal.
Last week the CMA pushed back the date on which it is expected provisional findings on the merger from next week to mid-January.
Shares in Sky edged 0.1 per cent lower to 999p in early trading.