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21st Century Fox/Sky Merger

Volume 619: debated on Tuesday 10 January 2017

Sky Plc announced on Friday 9 December that it had received an approach from 21st Century Fox Inc to acquire the 61% share of Sky Plc which it does not already own and I made a statement on 20 December about the proposed merger and the process that would need to be followed.

21st Century Fox have been in contact with my officials and have confirmed that they intend to notify the proposed merger to the European Commission for review under the EU merger regulation. Before formal notification, the parties intend to engage in pre-notification discussions with the Commission from January onwards. The timing of a formal notification to the Commission is therefore not fixed and will happen dependent on the parties’ ongoing discussions with the Commission. It is in the nature of this process that we cannot know in advance the dates upon which certain steps will happen.

As I made clear to the House on 20 December, I will aim to make a decision on whether or not to intervene within 10 working days of formal notification being made to the European Commission. Given the clear intention of the parties to engage with the Commission informally, I have asked my officials to prepare and put in place the necessary procedures to ensure that when I need to make a decision I can do so as quickly as possible and with the relevant information in front of me. As such, my officials have commenced their work to analyse the relevance of the public interest considerations as set out in the Enterprise Act 2002 to the merger. In doing so, they will look at the available evidence and will consider representations which are relevant to those specified public interests. This is preparatory work, and I am clear that the point has not yet been reached where I will be taking a decision on whether or not to intervene.

Any decision I do take on whether or not to intervene will be a quasi-judicial one and it is important that I am able to act independently and that the process is scrupulously fair and impartial. As a result, I will not be commenting on the merits of the proposed merger. I do, however, I recognise that this is an issue of significant interest to the public and has raised a lot of interest in Parliament, as well as being a significant issue for the parties concerned. I will therefore be keeping Parliament informed of the process as it moves ahead and will make a further statement when the parties have formally notified the Commission, ahead of making any decision about whether to intervene.