News Corp nears BSkyB deal with OFT

RUPERT Murdoch’s News Corp is closing in on a deal with regulators over its £7.8bn bid for broadcaster BSkyB, sources said yesterday.

The media group is close to agreeing a series of undertakings with the Office of Fair Trading that would satisfy its concerns that a takeover would unduly concentrate the UK’s media sector.

The concessions may see News Corp make structural changes such as separating out or essentially

surrendering control of its Sky News unit rather than just ensuring the two news providers remain distinct.

Sources close to News Corp told City A.M. last night that there had been a lot of back and forth with the regulators after the company submitted its proposals to them. News Corp is keen to avoid a full Competition Commission probe into its bid to acquire the remaining 61 per cent of BSkyB it does not already own and is prepared to make concessions to do so.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he intends to refer the deal to the Commission, but last month granted News Corp an extension to address media plurality issues. Analysts have said News Corp would be unlikely to offer Sky News as a concession unless necessary.

But Murdoch is now thought to be keen enough to close the deal for BSkyB, which is currently valued at £13.2bn, to agree to it.

It would almost certainly mean News Corp avoiding a six-month review by the Competition ­Commission.

News Corp made a 700p per share bid for BSkyB’s remaining 61 per cent in June 2010.

The deal values the broadcaster at £13.2bn.

If Jeremy Hunt approves an agreement, the deal will go to a 15-day public consultation.