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Comcast's $31-bn Sky counterbid pushes European media stocks to month high

Comcast, a $184 billion media giant which owns NBC and Universal Pictures, said it was offering 12.50 pounds per share

Comcast challenges Fox and Disney with $31 billion offer to buy Sky

Reuters LONDON
M&A activity spiced up a more reserved European share trading session on Tuesday after Comcast made a surprise counterbid for pay-TV group Sky, sending its shares soaring.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.1 percent by 0947 GMT, while the UK's FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent.

Shares in Sky jumped more than 20 percent on the back of Comcast's $31 billion offer, which could scupper Fox's plan to buy out Sky and sell it to Walt Disney.

Sky shares were trading well above Comcast's offer price, suggesting some investors expect Fox/Disney to come back with a higher offer.

"It has all the makings of being the most preferential bid for both shareholders and, importantly, regulators," Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group, said, adding that the bid was also less complicated than a deal with Fox and Disney while also offering shareholders a higher price.

"This could be a sign of things to come from the U.S. where maybe we're looking at more international expansion from the U.S. into Europe which is a more straightforward target than perhaps Asia is," Lawler said, citing the failed deal in 2015 between Time Warner Cable and Comcast in the United States.

Europe's media index was the top-performing sector, up 1.7 percent at a one-month high. Shares in British broadcaster and content producer ITV rose 2.1 percent.

Results were once again in focus, with UK housebuilder Persimmon advancing 10.5 percent after it reported a jump in full-year earnings and a higher reservations rate and boosted its interim dividend.

The results fired up the whole sector, with Berkeley up 2.3 percent and Taylor Wimpey climbing 1.7 percent.

Likewise shares in Poste Italiane advanced more than 5 percent after the group said that it would raise dividends and boost profits through new insurance products and parcel deliveries under a five-year business plan.

Outside of the STOXX, troubled subprime lender Provident Financial saw its shares surge 87 percent to their highest levels in six months after the company said it would raise 331 million pounds via a rights issue.

The broader stocks performance was more muted, however, ahead of testimony from the new U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell later in the day - watched for clues about future rate hikes and his view on recent market volatility.

Concerns over rising inflation and higher bond yields sparked a global equity market sell-off at the beginning of February, but as bond yields have eased this has taken the pressure off equity indexes slightly.

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First Published: Feb 27 2018 | 10:25 PM IST

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