Wall Street analysts are expecting the bidding war for 21st Century Fox to heat up following today's regulatory approval of AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner.
Fox's stock jumped 7% in after-hours trading, and Disney's fell modestly amid predictions that Comcast, emboldened by the AT&T ruling, would make an aggressive bid for most of Fox's assets.
“All hell’s going to break loose on the Disney-Fox deal,” investment banker Lloyd Grief predictedin a piece at Deadline. “Should be interesting, although I certainly wouldn’t count Disney out.”
Disney has been the frontrunner for some time, since the two companies reached an agreement in principle, but that deal has not yet been signed off on by stockholders, and Fox honcho Rupert Murdoch said that he is not married to the idea of the Disney deal.
There have been persistent reports that Comcast, which owns the majority of NBC Universal, would make an offer to Murdoch and Fox's board that included more cash and less stock than Disney was offering. Disney has said that they are prepared to fight to keep a deal in place.
Because Disney's acquisition of Fox was seen as a foregone conclusion until recently, it has played a role in the last couple of Disney earnings reports, wherein CEO Robert Iger talked up the benefits of the deal. With the deal in jeopardy, it likely puts Iger -- who delayed his retirement to complete the acquisition -- in a position where stockholders will want him to find a way to make it happen.
Murdoch rebuffed Comcast's advances last year amid regulatory concerns, but the AT&T/Time Warner deal was so similar to a prospective Comcast/Fox arrangement that conventional wisdom has held that those concerns would evaporate if the AT&T deal went through.8comments
Disney currently has a $52.4 billion all-stock offer in for Fox's film andtelevision studios, as well as ancillary networks like FX, NatGeo, Europe's Sky and India's Star. Comcast will reportedly prepare and $60 billion all-cash offer, which they intend to offer in the next 24 to 48 hours, according to BTIG Analyst Rich Greenfield.
Fans have been following the Disney/Fox deal closely, as a merger between the two companies would mean Marvel Studios would reacquire the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises, both of which have been under Fox's control for decades.