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Shares of media giant Comcast jumped 4.6 percent Thursday after announcing a bid to buy key assets from 21st Century Fox. The stock also posted its biggest one-day gain since December 2017, when it gained 4.9 percent.
Comcast, the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC, said Wednesday it would pay $65 billion for Fox's movie studios, stakes in Hulu, Sky and Endemol Shine Group, as well as networks FX, Star TV and National Geographic. Comcast is also a co-owner of Hulu. The shares are still down 17 percent this year on concern it may be overpaying for assets, but investors appeared to be rethinking that Thursday.
The bid puts Comcast on a collision course with Disney, which agreed to buy those same assets for $52.4 billion in December. Fox turned down an earlier offer from Comcast. Disney shares rose 2.3 percent and were the best performers in the Dow Jones industrial average. Fox's stock, meanwhile climbed 2.1 percent.
John Janedis, an analyst at Jefferies, said in a note that buying Fox would be "immediately accretive" to Comcast's free cash flow and earnings per share, noting it would boost both metrics by mid-to-high single-digit percentage points. He also said Comcast addressed some of the regulatory concerns initially raised by Fox, "making it difficult for FOXA's Board to continue to move ahead with the DIS offer in its current form."
"CMCSA's letter to the FOX Board noted that its deal is as likely, if not more, to receive regulatory approval than the DIS bid, with no meaningful difference in timing. This view is partially driven by the large int'l exposure of the FOX/Sky assets as well as slightly less overlap among domestic businesses relative to DIS," Janedis said.
However, Moody's said Comcast's offer is "credit negative" for the company, noting: " The total pro forma debt for the combined companies would be approximately $170 billion of total debt, the world's second-most indebted company ... after pro forma AT&T-Time Warner once it closes."
The Comcast bid came a day after a federal judge approved AT&T's deal to acquire Time Warner for $85 billion. Last year, the Justice Department sued to block the merger, arguing it would potentially lead to higher prices for consumers.