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Comcast bows out of Fox assets race

Disney is in the driving seat to take over assets owned by 21st Century Fox after Comcast confirmed it is bowing out of the race.

James Murdoch

Last month, Comcast and fellow media giant Verizon were reported to have entered negotiations to take over parts of the James Murdoch-run company, after initial talks with the Mouse House had cooled.

However, in a statement to newswire Reuters, NBCUniversal owner Comcast said it was dropping out as its interest had never reached a level required for a “definitive offer.”

“When a set of assets like Fox’s becomes available, it is our responsibility to evaluate if there is a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders,” Comcast said. “That is what we tried to do and we are no longer engaged in the review of those assets. We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer.”

The formal declaration now appears to reaffirm Disney’s pole position to complete the multibillion-dollar purchase after repeated reports that a deal was close and could be closed this week.

A potential deal would revolve around the future of 21st Century Fox’s cablenets, including FX, its international operations, such as European pay operator Sky and Star in India, and its film studio operations.

It would not, however, entail a total purchase, with the company expected to hold on to its Fox broadcasting network, sports programming assets, news and business channels and local broadcasting affiliates.

Fox’s assets range from a 50% stake in production giant Endemol Shine Group, a sprawling cable business that includes National Geographic and FX and a 30% interest in US-based streamer Hulu.

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