Sky investor Odey opposes Fox bid as Disney talks fuel uncertainty

LONDON (Reuters) - Investor Crispin Odey said he opposed Twenty-First Century Fox's FOXA.O $15 billion bid for Sky SKYB.L after a report of separate talks between Rupert Murdoch and Walt Disney Co DIS.N added more uncertainty to a takeover facing regulatory hurdles.

Veteran hedge fund manager Odey, whose firm has a 0.9 percent Sky stake according to Thomson Reuters data, said that Fox’s 10.75 pound-a-share bid “starts to look like it’s not a very good price” for the European pay-TV broadcaster.

Odey’s opposition to the 11.7 billion-pound ($15.4 billion) takeover comes after CNBC reported that Murdoch’s Fox had recently held talks about selling some assets to Disney.

That scenario added to the potential obstacles to the Sky deal which faces an in-depth regulatory investigation and strong opposition from some British politicians.

“I’d vote against the deal,” Odey told Reuters on Tuesday, when asked about Fox’s offer for the 61 percent of Sky that it does not already own.

He added: “The interesting thing is: can Sky survive happily without Fox? I think it can quite happily.”

Odey, a former son-in-law of Murdoch, had initially backed the Fox bid for Sky, which was announced in December.

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But in August he told Reuters that he thought the offer was beginning to “look rather mean”, although he stopped short of saying he would oppose it.

Sky shares traded 1.2 percent lower at 928 pence by 1520 GMT on Tuesday, well below the bid price.

Odey said that he had changed his mind because Sky’s financial results have been “much better than people forecast” , since the offer was made.

Last month, the British broadcaster posted an 11 percent rise in core earnings to 582 million pounds for the three months to the end of September.


Odey’s comments come after CNBC said that Disney recently discussed buying Fox’s movie and TV production studio studios, cable networks FX and National Geographic and international assets such as the Star network in India and its stake in Sky.

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The talks were not currently ongoing, the broadcaster said.

Analysts at Liberum said they still saw a successful conclusion of Fox’s bid for Sky as the most likely outcome, but the Disney-Fox talks had thrown a curveball into the mix.

They said Fox may scrap its bid for Sky as part of a proposed sale of assets, and they also noted that Fox’s willingness to consider including the Sky stake in any sale could be seen as a signal that it feels less confident of gaining regulatory approval from the British government.

UBS, however, said a combination of Disney and Fox content could strengthen the rationale for buying all of Sky.

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.

The bank also said in the event that a Fox/Sky deal was blocked, based on the CNBC article, Disney could be a potential strategic bidder for Sky and it noted it would not have the cross-media complications of a Fox bid.

Fox and Sky both declined to comment.

Editing by Keith Weir