Comcast outbids Fox with $39 billion offer for Sky in auction





By Ben Martin and Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) - Comcast <CMCSA.O> beat Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox <FOXA.O> in the battle for Sky <SKYB.L> after offering around 30 billion pounds ($39 billion) for the British broadcaster in a rare auction to decide the fate of the pay-television group.

U.S. cable giant Comcast bid 17.28 pounds a share for control of London-listed Sky during the auction, bettering an 15.67 pounds a share offer by Fox, the Takeover Panel said in a statement shortly after final bids were made on Saturday.

Comcast's final offer was significantly higher than its bid going into the auction of 14.75 pounds, and compares with Sky's closing share price of 15.85 pounds on Friday.

The quick-fire auction marks a dramatic climax to a protracted transatlantic bidding battle that has waged ever since February, when cable giant Comcast gate-crashed Fox's takeover of Sky.

It is a blow to 87-year-old media mogul Murdoch and the U.S. media and entertainment group that he controls, which already holds 39 percent of Sky and had been trying to take full ownership of the business since December 2016.

It is also a setback for U.S. entertainment giant Walt Disney <DIS.N>, which agreed a separate $71 billion deal to buy the bulk of Fox's film and TV assets, including the Sky stake, in June and would have taken ownership of the British broadcaster following a successful Fox takeover.

($1 = 0.7648 pounds)

(Reporting by Ben Martin and Paul Sandle, editing by Alistair Smout)

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