March 20, 2018

Disney reportedly in talks to buy majority of 21st Century Fox assets

08 November 2017, 12:36 | Kenneth Drake

Image joe raedle Getty Images

Image joe raedle  Getty Images

The two sides are "not now talking at this very moment".

Disney could benefit from 21st Century Fox's television properties as it gets ready to launch a streaming service.

Any arrangement would not entail a total purchase of 21st Century Fox by Disney, with the Murdoch company expected to hold on to its Fox broadcasting network, its sports programming assets, news and business channels and local broadcasting affiliates.

For the moment, no deal to sell a portion of the Fox company to Disney has taken place.

Precisely what assets are up for grabs remains to be seen, but the CNBC reports suggest that Murdoch would retain the Fox News divisions - said to be US President Donald Trump's news diet of choice - whilst selling on the 39-percent stake in Sky. In light of the news, neither Fox nor Disney have been able to be reached for comment or confirmation. The fact that the Murdoch family empire, or at least parts of it, are for sale is a "big change".

That's because, long before it became a blockbuster studio that would be bought by Disney in 2009 for $4 billion, Marvel sold off the film rights to several of its popular characters to various studios. (Disney acquired ABC in 1996.) It would also exclude Fox's sports channels to avoid regulatory concerns that combining them with ESPN would be anticompetitive. The two parties have been in talks for the last few weeks however they have come to a standstill, for the time being, the report added. "For those that have the National Football League now, it is the most important piece of programming, so the risk would be the next set of negotiations should drive up prices, and if you're smaller, it's going to cost you a lot more on earnings than it would if you were bigger" ("Squawk Box", CNBC, 11/7).

The British company was already starting to build a pan-European streaming platform with its Now TV and Sky Ticket products, and the addition of content from Disney as well as Fox would only make that more compelling, it said. Fox shares have been "swooning for much of the year".

Disney announced earlier this year it was pulling its film content from Netflix in 2019 and launching a rival Disney-branded worldwide streaming service.

21st Century Fox stock closed at $27.45 Monday.

"Based on our SOTP [sum of the parts] analysis in a deal, we believe FOX is worth about $39/share, 40% above current levels". Nathan: "So now if they start to way overpay for original content, they could - 10 years from now - find themselves in a very similar situation" ("Fast Money", CNBC, 11/6).

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