Bidding war for Sky on course for auction - Takeover Panel

Fox Comcast may duke it out for UK-based Sky this weekend

A United Kingdom regulator said Thursday that, barring a settlement, a three-round bid process will take place on Saturday - after which a victor will be named.

Fox already owns 39% of Sky, which has extensive pay-TV operations in the U.K., Germany and Italy.

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

A protracted $34 billion bidding war for European broadcaster Sky between United States rivals Comcast and Twenty-First Century Fox could be settled by a quick-fire auction on Saturday, UK regulators said on Thursday. 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. With stiff opposition to the Fox bid in the U.K., Comcast entered the fray earlier this year, setting up a bidding war between two media heavyweights.

Britain's top pay-TV company has been in play since December 2016, when Fox offered to buy out Sky's other shareholders. Fox's latest offer stands at 14 pounds per share. Sky shareholders will then decide which offer to accept.

By the time the government was ready to give the deal the go-ahead, Comcast had trumped Fox with a rival offer, valuing Sky at £22.5bn.

"We still have the ability at the end of it to say no, sorry, you still haven't bid enough", he told Reuters on Thursday.

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The fight for the company is part of a bigger battle being waged in the entertainment industry as the growth of Netflix (NFLX.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O) force the world's traditional media giants to spend tens of billions of dollars to keep pace. Bloomberg earlier reported the timing of the one-day auction to settle the biggest purchase since the panel was established in 1968 to supervise and regulate takeovers of British companies.

There have only been three British takeover situations since 2007 that have involved auctions handled by the regulator, including the £6.2 billion sale of Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus to Tata Steel.

According to the auction's parameters, bids must be set at a fixed price, in pounds sterling.

If no clear victor has emerged at that point, with no increased bid being made in the second round, then there would be a third and final round in which both Fox and Comcast would be allowed to make increased bids.

The auction will bring to an end one of the UK's longest running takeover battles in history. In the second round, Comcast can make a higher counter-bid.

In the first round of the auction, the offeror with the lowest offer at the start of the process can may make a higher bid and the other suitor can do so in the next round.

Comcast eventually dropped out of that contest to focus on its acquisition of Sky.

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