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Disney Ups Fox Bid to $71.3 Billion, Outflanking Comcast

The Walt Disney Company has boosted its bid to acquire the bulk of 21st Century Fox, raising its offer to $71.3 billion in cash and stock. In a statement, Fox said Wednesday that the new deal is significantly better than Disney’s earlier offer and “is superior to the proposal made by the Comcast Corporation.”

The move comes after Comcast launched a rival bid for most of Fox’s film and television holdings. Its $65 billion all-cash offer topped the $52.4 billion deal that Disney inked with Fox in December, fueling expectations of a bidding war between two of the world’s biggest media companies. Both Disney and Comcast see a Fox acquisition as potentially transformative, adding to their arsenal of hit movies and shows at a time when digital behemoths such as Netflix and Amazon are changing the way consumers watch and pay for content.

Disney said it would now pay $38 per share for Fox, up from its initial bid of $28 per share. The deal would be about 50% cash and 50% stock, and debt would be used to partly finance the transaction.

Disney Fox counteroffer

Despite the sweetened offer, Fox’s board said it retained the right to weigh competing bids. Comcast, which had proposed to pay $35 per share, declined to comment on Disney’s freshened offer.

“We are extremely proud of the businesses we have built at 21st Century Fox, and firmly believe that this combination with Disney will unlock even more value for shareholders as the new Disney continues to set the pace at a dynamic time for our industry,” said Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox. “We remain convinced that the combination of 21CF’s iconic assets, brands and franchises with Disney’s will create one of the greatest, most innovative companies in the world.”

As part of the deal, Disney would acquire 20th Century Fox, Fox’s film studio, as well as a cable group that includes FX Networks, National Geographic and several international channels and regional sports networks. Also included is Fox’s 30% stake in Hulu and 39% interest in European satellite broadcaster Sky.

Fox would retain some assets, including Fox News and Fox Broadcasting Company, and regroup them in a new standalone company run by Murdoch and his son Lachlan.

“After six months of integration planning we’re even more enthusiastic and confident in the strategic fit of the assets and the talent at Fox,” Disney chief Bob Iger said in a statement. “At a time of dynamic change in the entertainment industry, the combination of Disney’s and Fox’s unparalleled collection of businesses and franchises will allow us to create more appealing high-quality content, expand our direct-to-consumer offerings and international presence, and deliver more personalized and compelling entertainment experiences to meet growing consumer demand around the world.”

The battle for Fox has transfixed the media industry, pitting Iger against Comcast head Brian Roberts, with control of one of Hollywood’s most storied film and television brands in the balance.

Fox’s share price was up 5% in the immediate aftermath of the announcement, while Comcast shares fell 0.5%. Fox has postponed a July 10 meeting, which had originally been scheduled for shareholders to vote on the deal.

Stewart Clarke contributed to this report.

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