Comcast Scrambles as Disney Gains New Momentum on 21st Century Fox Deal

Comcast kept mum on Wednesday after the Justice Department handed Disney a major boost in its quest to acquire the bulk of 21st Century Fox.

The Justice Department on Wednesday gave the regulatory greenlight to Disney’s $71.3 billion deal to buy the lion’s share of Rupert Murdoch’s film and TV empire after Disney agreed to divest Fox’s 22 regional sports networks as a condition of securing anti-trust clearance.

The sign-off from the DOJ is significant in the view of 21st Century Fox’s board members because concerns about Comcast’s ability to secure regulatory approval for its proposed $65 billion transaction have been the overriding consideration for the Fox board. After failing to secure a deal with Fox last fall, Comcast on June 13 fielded a $65 billion bid, besting the economic value of Disney’s initial agreement with Fox, unveiled Dec. 14 and valued at $52.4 billion.

But the Justice Department’s move on Wednesday strengthens Disney’s hand.

“The pressure is now back on Comcast to come in with a more significant bid above Disney’s $38 per share offer to help sway the 21st Century Fox Board to reject the bird in the hand regulatory clearance,” MoffettNathanson Research analyst Michael Nathanson wrote on Wednesday. Comcast declined to comment for this story.

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