In challenge to Murdoch, Comcast also bids for Britain's Sky network

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Shares in Sky soared 18 per cent. NY time, the stock was up 20 percent at 13.30 pounds ($18.48).

Sky is known also for coverage of live English Premier League (EPL) football and earlier this month it retained its position as the main broadcaster of EPL matches by winning a majority of television rights for 2019-22 games in a multi-billion-pound deal.

Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, said: "We think Sky is an outstanding company".

He said: "The UK is and will remain a great place to do business".

It said that it would maintain Sky's United Kingdom headquarters at the Osterley campus in west London and that it would continue to support Sky's technology hub in Leeds and its software engineering academy scheme, which offers technology apprenticeships and graduate opportunities to young people across the north of England. "Sky is a very attractive business". Analysts with the investment firm Jeffries said they think a bidding war could ensue between Fox and Comcast, or that Disney might make "a direct offer to Sky shareholders".

The Competition and Markets Authority is now investigating Fox's takeover bid after provisionally declaring that any move toward full ownership of Sky "would not be in the public interest".

"Comcast therefore does not believe that this Superior Cash Proposal should create any media plurality concerns in the U.K.", Roberts added.

'The problem for Fox of merely cashing in its Sky stake is not that this derails Disney-Fox (we understand that there is no exit route for Disney, or no impact on offer value, if Sky assets are sold before Disney takes charge),' he said.

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The CMA is consulting on its provisional findings before making its final report to the government by a deadline of 1 May.

21 Century Fox, by contrast, has been told by regulators that its bid risked giving the Murdoch clan too much influence over Britain's news agenda. "A further statement will be made if appropriate".

"The Independent Directors of Sky are mindful of their fiduciary duties and their obligations under the UK Takeover Code. So get ready for multiple bids, which will make Sky shareholders very happy".

Downing Street described Comcast's interest was a commercial matter.

The offer for Sky from 21 Century Fox was made in December 2016, but has been held up by the Competition and Markets Authority. It also indicated that if the deal goes through it would, operationally, keep many things the same at Sky. It's also trying to buy the 61 percent of Sky it doesn't already own.

"As it is, Comcast has thrown its hat into the ring and is now seeking to meet with the Sky directors to flesh out the deal".

The proposed offer pits Comcast's Roberts against Murdoch, the 86-year-old tycoon who helped to launch Sky in Britain, and who has been edging toward finally getting his hands on Sky after he first bid for the company eight years ago.

If 21st Century Fox wished to counter Comcast's offer, it would likely need approval from Disney.