Walt Disney Co. raised its bid for Twenty-First Century Fox’s movie and television assets to $71.3 billion, the companies announced Wednesday.
The new bid is $38 a share, up from Disney’s $28 a share offer in December and rivaling Comcast’s $35 a share all-cash bid last week. Comcast’s deal is valued at $65 billion.
The bidding war was expected as the two media giants battle over Fox’s movie production business as well as networks National Geographic and FX, Star TV, stakes in Sky, Endemol Shine Group, Hulu and regional sports networks.
Disney’s new bid allows Fox shareholders to choose cash or stock. Fox called the new Disney offer “superior” to the Comcast proposal.
Fox’s Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch and Disney CEO Robert Iger met Tuesday night before this new bid was submitted, sources told CNBC’s David Faber.
Fox shares jumped 6.3 percent in early trading Wednesday, while shares of Disney rose 1 percent. Shares of CNBC parent Comcast rose 0.2 percent. Iger said on a conference call that Disney does not expect to complete the $20 billion share buyback it announced in December.
In a statement on Wednesday, Murdoch said, “We are extremely proud of the businesses we have built at 21st Century Fox, and firmly believe that this combination with Disney will unlock even more value for shareholders as the new Disney continues to set the pace at a dynamic time for our industry.”
The statement added, “We remain convinced that the combination of [Fox’s] iconic assets, brands and franchises with Disney’s will create one of the greatest, most innovative companies in the world.”
Iger said in a statement Wednesday that the combination with the Fox units would allow Disney to create more appealing content, expand its direct-to-consumer offerings and international presence and “deliver more personalized and compelling entertainment experiences to meet growing consumer demand around the world.”
Disney’s bid in December was a stock deal worth $52.4 billion at the time, but CNBC has reported that the company was willing to add cash to sweeten the offer if a rival stepped in. Disney said Wednesday, “Since the original agreement was announced, the intrinsic value of these assets has increased, notably due to tax reform and operating improvements.”
Fox’s board had a scheduled meeting on Wednesday at which it was expected to talk about Comcast’s rival bid.
Fox said its board hadn’t concluded Comcast’s unsolicited bid “could reasonably be expected to result in a ‘Company Superior Proposal’ under the Disney Merger Agreement.”
A spokesman for Comcast said the company does not have a comment right now.