Business

Sky's 21st Century Fox takeover cleared by Europe

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European Commission competition authorities have cleared 21st Century Fox to buy the 61% of broadcaster Sky that it does not yet own.

Both Sky and Fox are controlled by businessman Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Times and the Sun newspapers.

However, the £18.5bn deal could still face regulatory obstacles in the UK, where Sky is based.

UK Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has asked regulators to investigate the deal.

Last month she told MPs that Ofcom, the media watchdog, and the Competition and Markets Authority, would report to her by 16 May.

Part of Ofcom's investigation will include whether Sky's potential new owners are "fit and proper". Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan Murdoch are both joint chairmen of 21st Century Fox and News Corp, while his other son, James Murdoch, is chief executive of Fox.

Labour has raised objections to the takeover and has urged Prime Minister Theresa May to keep her promise of standing up to powerful interest groups.

David Winnick, a Labour MP, said it would be "simply unacceptable that the amount of media ownership [Rupert Murdoch] already controls should be increased".

'No concerns'

While the UK mulls possible intervention, the European Commission approved the deal "unconditionally".

"Based on the results of its market investigation, the Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns," it said.

Fox welcomed the Commission's decision, adding: "We now look forward to continuing to work with UK authorities and are confident that the proposed transaction will be approved following a thorough review process."

The US company is offering £11.7bn for the stake in Sky it does not already own.

Sky shareholders would receive £10.75 cash for each share, valuing the entire company at £18.5bn.

Shares in Sky closed up 1p at 963p on Friday.

The satellite broadcaster has 22 million customers in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany and Austria.

In 2011, Rupert Murdoch abandoned a bid to take full control of Sky in the wake of that year's phone-hacking scandal involving journalists at his UK newspapers. One title, the News of the World, was subsequently shut down.

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