Comcast cable company released a statement saying that is no longer in discussions to buy pieces of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox . This could open the door to a Disney bid as it leaves the Walt Disney Co. as the sole suitor to the deal.

With Comcast stepping down, Disney is now closer to acquiring parts of 21st Century Fox which would help the company planning to launch its own streaming services as a way of contending with changes in the entertainment industry. File photo.
With Comcast stepping down, Disney is now closer to acquiring parts of 21st Century Fox which would help the company planning to launch its own streaming services as a way of contending with changes in the entertainment industry. File photo. (Reuters)

Comcast Corp. said on Monday it had abandoned its bid for most of the assets of Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., leaving Walt Disney Co. as the sole suitor in pursuit of the $40 billion-plus deal.

Sources said last week that Disney was in the lead to acquire the assets, which include Fox's FX and National Geographic cable channels, its movie studio, the Star network in India and stake in European pay-TV provider Sky PLC.

The Murdoch family, which controls Fox, prefers a deal with Disney because it would rather be paid in Disney stock than Comcast stock, and expects a potential deal with Disney to be cleared by US antitrust regulators more easily, one of the sources said.

Comcast backs down

Comcast, the biggest cable provider in the United States, said in a statement on Monday that its discussions with Fox had ended.

"When a set of assets like Fox's becomes available, it is our responsibility to evaluate if there is a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders," Comcast said. "That is what we tried to do and we are no longer engaged in the review of those assets. We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer."

The assets in question would have expanded Comcast's international footprint through ownership of Sky and Star. A source said in mid-November that Comcast had approached Fox about its interest, and talks were in early stages.

Negotiations continue with Disney

Disney's negotiations with Fox are continuing, and a deal could be reached as early as this month, sources close to the situation said on Monday. The persons asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential.

Disney is planning to launch its own streaming services as a way of contending with changes in the entertainment industry and deep-pocketed tech companies that are building their own video divisions. Buying parts of Fox could give it more material to stream.

Disney did not immediately respond to request for comment. A Fox representative declined to comment.

Any potential deal will follow the US Department of Justice's decision last month to sue to block AT&T Inc's $85.4 billion deal to buy Time Warner Inc.

Source: AP