Disney must bid for Sky even if Murdoch offer fails, watchdog rules

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The takeovers panel said that the basis of the ruling rests on the belief that "securing control of Sky might reasonably be considered to be a significant goal of Disney's acquiring control of Fox".

Sky said it "noted" today's announcement and urged shareholders to take no further action.

It added: "21st Century Fox remains committed to its recommended cash offer for Sky announced on 15th December 2016, which is supported by revised remedies recently offered to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) with whom 21st Century Fox has been co-operating in order to bring the United Kingdom regulatory process to a swift and satisfactory conclusion". The deal for that is being reviewed by United Kingdom regulators, while Comcast has also said it was ready to make a competing offer for Sky.

Sky shares were mostly unchanged at 1,311 pence as of 11:41am in London.

The new regulatory requirement adds yet another wrinkle to an already complicated acquisition process that involves Disney, Fox, Sky and Comcast.

Fox, which already holds a 39.1% stake in Sky, agreed at the end of 2016 to buy the remainder of the company in a deal valuing it at £18.5bn. Comcast's approach would see Sky shareholder's receive £12.50 a share, a significant premium to Murdoch's offer.

In the meantime, Comcast is still in the mix with a competing $31 billion bid for Sky after missing out on the deal for Fox's entertainment assets that went to Disney.

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority is now reviewing Fox's bid for Sky and is due to report back to British culture secretary Matt Hancock by May 1, who will then have 30 days to decide whether or not to approve the deal.

The CMA is now weighing up whether to recommend Fox's deal for Sky to Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, who must decide to either approve or block it.

"It's very good news", said Crispin Odey, founder of hedge fund manager Odey Asset Management, which owns a 0.8% stake in Sky according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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