Rupert Murdoch to lead BSkyB talks

Mogul cancels Swiss trip to meet U.K. gov't minister

Rupert Murdoch has canceled his visit to the global economic powwow in Davos, Switzerland, to personally lead negotiations with the British government aimed at winning approval for his takeover of paybox BSkyB.

On Tuesday, media minister Jeremy Hunt gave News Corp. more time to fend off the launch of a Competition Commission inquiry into the £8 billion ($12.7 billion) deal. This would look into whether News Corp.’s proposed buyout of the 61% of the satcaster it does not already own threatens media plurality.

This was despite media regulator Ofcom’s recommendation that the takeover should be scrutinized by the Commission.

Hunt said he would refer the deal to the Commission unless News Corp. could come up with measures that would alleviate concerns that total ownership of satcaster BSkyB would restrict the range of voices in the local media.

Speculation is growing that Murdoch will offer to place Sky News at arm’s length from the rest of News Corp.’s British assets, which include four national newspapers, in return for getting the bid passed.

There is growing concern that further delays to the proposed takeover could cost News Corp. dearly, especially if the price of BSkyB stock rises during what could be a six-month probe by the Commission.

BSkyB’s financial results will be published today and analysts expect another impressive set of figures from the paybox which, to date, has been immune to the economic downturn.

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