(Reuters) – Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) dropped its $66 billion bid for Twenty-First Century Fox Inc’s (FOXA.O) entertainment assets on Thursday but said it would still try to expand its international footprint by acquiring 61 percent of European broadcaster Sky Plc (SKYB.L), the remainder of which is owned by Fox.
Comcast’s withdrawal is a concession to Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), which last month sweetened its offer for the Fox assets to $71.3 billion, in a bid to unite two storied Hollywood studios and several television networks under one corporate umbrella.
Comcast’s move de-escalates one of the media industry’s most high-profile confrontations, which pitted Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts against Fox Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch and Disney CEO Bob Iger. However, it still leaves the two companies competing to expand in Europe via a bidding war for Sky, which is 39-percent owned by Fox.
Fox has also made an offer for the 61 percent of Sky it does not own, although Comcast is currently the highest bidder with a 14.75 pounds-per share-offer, worth $34 billion, for the London-listed pay TV group.
Shares of Comcast, the largest U.S. cable company, rose 2.7 percent as investors were relieved the company did not try to outbid Disney further. Disney shares were up 1.6 percent.
Fox shares fell 1.2 percent and Sky ended down 1.5 percent. One of the reasons Comcast dropped its bid for the Fox assets was that the bidding war was inflating the value of Sky, given its partial ownership by Fox, according to sources familiar with the company’s thinking.
“Walking away from the battle for Fox at…