Comcast May Still Try to Top Disney’s Bid for Fox, CNBC Says

Because sometimes $52 billion is just a starting point

Last Updated: February 11, 2018 @ 6:28 PM

Not so fast on that Cinderella’s Castle expansion: Comcast may still try to top Disney’s $52.4 billion bid for a boatload of 21st Century Fox assets, CNBC’s Alex Sherman wrote on Monday, citing unnamed “people familiar with the matter.”

The most (potentially) explosive part of Sherman’s report was somewhat buried in his story. Here is some of what Sherman wrote:

Comcast, CNBC’s owner, could also consider topping Disney’s bid for Fox, according to people familiar with the matter. No decision has been made by Comcast on a topping bid yet, said the people, who asked not to be named because the decision is private. Disney is already preparing itself for a Comcast topping bid and considering responses in case, according to multiple people familiar with Disney’s thinking.

An unsolicited offer at a premium to Disney’s bid could persuade enough Fox shareholders to vote against Murdoch. His family controls 39 percent of Fox’s Class B voting shares but owns only 17 percent of all outstanding shares. Comcast executives suggested to Murdoch last year they would be willing to pay significantly more for Fox’s assets than what Disney was offering, said the people. Murdoch still went with the Disney offer, in large part due to regulatory concerns with Comcast.

Sherman specified that Comcast is watching how the AT&T-Time Warner merger pans out. If those companies succeed against the government in court — Sherman wrote that Disney boss Bob Iger should watch out. Read his full story here.

Reps for Comcast and Fox declined comment to TheWrap on this story.

Comcast, which had sought a deal for Fox in 2017 before Disney swooped in with its own offer, had publicly bowed out of the 21st Century sweepstakes. Perhaps they’re reconsidering that statement.

Here is what Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts said last week about M&A on his year-end 2017 earnings conference call: “As our 2017 performance across NBCUniversal demonstrates, our wonderful team have put us in a position to succeed in these rapidly evolving media businesses in this changing landscape. Not every company can say that. With the pace of change in the industry accelerating, many of our peers are reevaluating their strategies, as we’ve seen recently. So along the way there may be opportunities for us to create more value for our shareholders, like we did with NBCUniversal. In this respect, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we study every situation that comes along. We believe our shareholders expect this from us. But the bar is set high, and we have been and will remain disciplined.”

And: “Let me just reiterate what I sort of said earlier. We always are looking for ways to create more value for shareholders, from opportunities as Mike just described, where we find capital to invest in the business; or new businesses, like Dave just talked about, in wireless; or what we’re doing with the Olympics. At the same time, you look at inorganic opportunities that come along, and you have a bar. I think I’d say that there’s nothing we feel we have to acquire, and I think that’s an important point to emphasize. So I think we set it high. I don’t know how to articulate that except to look to our track record. And we’ve created value for shareholders for, I think, in almost every instance, and that’s certainly the goal when we do so. So, our most recent example would be the Japan theme park. And stay tuned. We’ll see if we can execute. But, so far, we feel terrific about that. And obviously NBCUniversal, as I mentioned before, is the biggest example. So, we don’t talk about specific situations, and I hope that helps clarify.”

You figure it out.