BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Walt Disney’s (DIS.N) $71.3-billion offer to buy Twenty-First Century Fox Inc’s (FOXA.O) entertainment assets won approval from the European Commission on Tuesday, subject to Disney selling interests in factual TV channels in Europe.
The EU competition regulator said in a statement that Disney had committed to divest its interests in channels including History and Lifetime in the European Economic Area (EEA) to avoid harming competition following its purchase from Fox.
“The decision is conditional on full compliance with commitments offered by Disney,” the Commission said.
The channels it must end its interest in are History, H2, Crime & Investigation, Blaze and Lifetime channels — currently controlled by A+E Television Networks, a joint venture between Disney and Hearst. HRSTV.UL
Disney secured approval from the U.S. Justice Department for the deal in June on condition after agreeing to sell Fox’s 22 regional sports networks.
The deal would expand Disney’s unrivalled portfolio of some of the world’s most popular characters, uniting Mickey Mouse, Luke Skywalker and Marvel superheroes with Fox’s X-Men, “Avatar” and “The Simpsons” franchises.
Disney owns ABC, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel Studios and “Star Wars” producer Lucasfilm, plus an array of theme parks. The Fox assets being acquired include a cable group with FX Networks, National Geographic and 300-plus international channels, plus Fox’s stake in Hulu.
(In this story the Commission corrects statement to say that channels are controlled, not owned, by A+E and that A+E is not a channel)
Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Adrian Croft