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Comcast Buys Over 30% of Sky on Open Market, Seeks More Before Takeover Deadline

Comcast said Tuesday it had snapped up more than 30% of the shares in Sky, the European pay-TV service that it is in the process of buying. The U.S. cable giant has a Sky-endorsed offer for the company on the table, but it can also openly buy Sky shares, except from shareholders in the U.S. The company said it is “seeking to make further market purchases” of shares in Sky.

Comcast beat rival 21st Century Fox on Saturday in a high-stakes auction of Sky, lodging a winning bid of £17.28 per share, which values the business at $40 billion. Sky shareholders have until Oct. 11 to accept the offer. At midday Tuesday, Sky was trading at £17.27 on the London stock exchange.

Although Comcast executives celebrated their near-certain victory over Disney-backed Fox in the battle for Sky – CEO Brian Roberts called it “a great day for Comcast” – the market has not shared their enthusiasm. Comcast’s stock took a hammering, and Disney was up in trading Monday.

Comcast is obliged by U.K. rules to offer to buy out the remaining Sky shareholders, including the 39% Fox already owns. Fox has said it is “considering its options” and has not officially pulled out of the Sky race, although its latest £15.67-per-share offer in Saturday’s auction is considerably short of Comcast’s. Analysts have speculated that Disney-Fox will use its stake as leverage for Comcast’s stake in Hulu or other assets.

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