If Rupert Murdoch is going to eventually take full control of Sky, it seems that he is going to have to take the scenic route.
Six years ago Murdoch abandoned an attempt to acquire the satellite broadcaster through his News Corporation subsidiary amid political concerns about media plurality and News Corp being tarnished by the phone-hacking scandal.
The media magnate has revived the bid through his 21st Century Fox business, but culture secretary Karen Bradley now says she is “minded” to refer it to the Competition & Markets Authority on those same concerns about media plurality.
Bradley’s stance follows a report yesterday from industry regulator Ofcom. It found that the Sky bid risked handing the Murdoch family “increased influence” over the UK’s news agenda and body politic in general.
Ofcom told the secretary of state that the new takeover attempt for the 61 per cent of Sky that 21st Century Fox does not currently own raised “public interest concerns”, including “the perception of increased influence”.
Fox and Sky, whose other shareholders have agreed to the £11.7 billion offer, have until 14 July to make representations to Bradley before she reaches a final decision.
Second prize for Murdoch – particularly with the sexual and racial harassment allegations dogging Fox – is that Ofcom has said the proposed takeover would not stop Sky from holding a broadcasting licence. The culture secretary has also said that she is “not minded” to refer the bid to a phase two probe in relation to a “genuine commitment to broadcasting standards”.
This is sort of implying that Murdoch’s businesses have cleaned up their act and improved standards, and that media plurality is the single big hurdle.
Game on again, but the pendulum seems to have shifted away a bit more from the tycoon.
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Profits up, like-for-like sales up, dividend up and £35 million of synergies achieved as the Spirit acquisition is integrated a year ahead of schedule.
It now has a formidably well-balanced “wet” and pub restaurant offering. The shares are a buy.