Shareholders approve Disney-Fox US$71.3 billion merger

Disney’s higher offer in both cash and stock has ended its bidding war with US cable and entertainment group Comcast, which admitted defeat.
Disney’s higher offer in both cash and stock has ended its bidding war with US cable and entertainment group Comcast, which admitted defeat.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP, NYTIMES) - Shareholders of Walt Disney and 21st Century Fox voted to approve a planned merger worth US$71.3 billion (S$97.1 billion) on Friday (July 27).

The deal, which still requires regulatory approval from foreign governments, would see Disney acquiring assets including Fox studios in Hollywood and various film and television production operations.

United States regulators earlier approved the merger on the condition that Disney divest itself of Fox's 22 regional sports networks as it already owns ESPN.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch will continue to run a slimmed-down "new Fox" focusing on Fox News, the Fox broadcasting network and several sports operations.

Murdoch will also continue to run newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post and The Sun in Britain.

The vote puts an end to a bidding war between Disney and US cable and entertainment group Comcast, which had attempted to outbid Disney in June. Disney's chief executive Robert Iger countered with a much higher offer in both cash and stock.

Comcast then admitted defeat, with chief executive Brian Roberts offering his congratulations to both Disney and Fox.

Disney expects the deal to clear its final hurdles by early 2019, which will give them the rights to box office hits such as Avatar and Titanic, both directed by James Cameron, and TV shows such as The Simpsons.

Marvel Studios, owned by Disney, will also reacquire the film rights to iconic Marvel properties such as the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, which could not be included in the Marvel Cinematic Universe previously.

Fan favourites like Wolverine and villains like Galactus may soon join the Avengers on the big screen, if the deal moves ahead.

The deal will also give Disney the cable networks FX and National Geographic. Disney will acquire a controlling stake in the streaming service Hulu, which has more than 20 million subscribers, as well as Star, one of India's fastest growing media companies.