Antitrust Issues Loom Over Fox – Time Warner Deal

Antitrust Issues Loom Over Fox – Time Warner Deal

Media mogul and veteran deal maker Rupert Murdoch is a patient man. Murdoch has been looking for a signature deal since his BSkyB buyout was scuttled by the phone hacking scandal in 2011, and it looks like he finally has his prize deal all lined up…and it’s a doozie.

Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (NASDAQ:FOX) unveiled an $85 billion offer for Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX) cable late last week. The cash and stock offer also included an offer to spin off Time Warner’s CNN as a sop to anti-trust regulators.

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Shares of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (NASDAQ:FOX) fell 6.2% on July 16 after its bid for Time Warner was announced. Target firm Time Warner’s shares were up by an impressive 17%.


Fox – Time Warner deal anti-trust concerns

Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (NASDAQ:FOX) unsolicited bid for Time Warner Inc. will definitely be closely examined by antitrust regulators already grappling with rapid consolidation in the media industry, given Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA)’s planned buy out of Time Warner Cable Inc (NYSE:TWC) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T)’s $48.5 billion deal for DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV). Analysts say Murdoch’s Fox would gain more clout to extract price increases for films and TV shows with the combined firm, enabling him to pressure other programmers to merge.

The ownership of two leading film studios is also likely to be a focus of antitrust regulators, according to Amanda Wait, an attorney at Hunton & Williams LLP in Washington. This is especially true given Fox and Warner Bros. are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 so far this year, enjoying a combined 37% of the U.S. and Canadian box office. Worldwide Time Warner ranks first and Fox ranks third, with The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) coming in second place.


CBS to buy CNN?

CBS Corporation (NYSE:CBS) shares also moved up on July 17 after CEO Leslie Moonves said CBS is interested in buying the CNN news channel if Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (NASDAQ:FOX) is planning to spin it off to garner antitrust approval for its proposed deal with Time Warner.

“We’re in a very advantageous position,” said Moonves. “Our balance sheet is very good.”

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