Britain clears way for Murdoch to battle Comcast for Sky

UK Government Ministers Attend First Cabinet After Re-shuffle

Hancock has already waved rival Comcast bid through

Disney has separately struck a deal to buy Fox's entertainment assets, including its stake in Sky.

A similar bid from 21st Century Fox remains subject to approval, minister Matt Hancock said.

Britain's government said Tuesday an £11.7 billion bid from Rupert Murdoch's Fox to take over Sky could only be approved if Sky News is sold off to maintain a diverse broadcasting landscape.

A separate £22 billion bid for Sky from United States broadcasting giant Comcast was cleared by Mr Hancock, setting the stage for a bidding war with Fox.

United Kingdom culture minister Matt Hancock said the deal can move forward if Sky News is sold to a suitable third party.

Rupert Murdoch's Fox is attempting to buy the 61% of Sky that it does not already own, but the bid has been complicated by competition concerns, media plurality fears and rival offers.

The undertakings must ensure that Sky News is financially.

Investors are clearly hoping for more: Sky shares rose on Tuesday to trade at £13.60 ($18.20).

Analysts at Credit Suisse said that with Fox having pursued Sky for 16 months through a long regulatory process, they would expect it to make an increased bid for Sky in excess of the Comcast bid.

Sky shares were up marginally on the day.

"Were the Fox-Disney deal to fail it could leave Sky News isolated from Sky and owned by a foreign company with few news interests in the United Kingdom", the West Bromwich East MP said.

Mr Hancock said he needed to be confident that the final undertakings ensured the continuation of Sky News's long-term financial viability, and that it could continue to operate as a major UK-based news provider making independent editorial decisions.

"I am optimistic that we can achieve this goal, not least given the willingness 21st Century Fox has shown in developing these credible proposals".

"We now look forward to engaging with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and we are confident that we will reach a final decision clearing our transaction", the company said in a statement.

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