The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) has consented to Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc.’s (“21st Century Fox”—NASDAQ: FOXA, FOX) decision to tender or sell its 39% stake in Sky plc as soon as allowable under terms of Comcast Corp.’s £17.28 per share offer for Sky. The current value of Fox’s Sky stake is more than $15 billion.
The transaction, coupled with the divestiture of the Fox Sports Regional Networks, will significantly reduce the amount of debt Disney will incur in acquiring 21st Century Fox, and enable Disney to maintain its strong balance sheet as it continues to invest in content creation for its direct-to-consumer platforms. Disney will expand its considerable investment in the Disney-branded direct-to-consumer offering launching in late 2019 and the new ESPN+ sports streaming service, and will seek to increase investment in Hulu’s content offerings and international distribution. Disney and 21st Century Fox each currently hold 30% stakes in Hulu.
“Along with the net proceeds from the divestiture of the RSNs, the sale of Fox’s Sky holdings will substantially reduce the cost of our overall acquisition and allow us to aggressively invest in building and creating high-quality content for our direct-to-consumer platforms to meet the growing demands of viewers,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company.
The acquisition has received formal approval from shareholders of both companies, and Disney and 21st Century Fox have entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice that allows the acquisition to proceed, while requiring the sale of the Fox Sports Regional Networks. The transaction is subject to a number of non-U.S. merger and other regulatory reviews.