After yet another extraordinary move in an increasingly ever more extraordinary saga, Rupert Murdoch’s ambition to buy the remaining shares in BSkyB that he didn’t own has been delayed for at least at number of months, if not at all.
In what looks like a move designed to buy time before the bid is halted completely in the wake of the phone hacking scandal which has now drawn in former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the UK royal family, News Corp has withdrawn its proposed undertakings in lieu of reference to the UK Competition Commission with respect to its proposed acquisition of BSkyB.
This breaks the key conditions that UK Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt had set out to allow the deal to be approved by his department. Indeed Hunt told the UK House of Commons that he had duly referred News Corp's bid back to the Competition Commission. This would mean a delay in the process of at least a number of months.
In a statement released describing its move, and prior to Hunt’s statement, News Corp said that should the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport decide on this basis to refer the proposed transaction to the Competition Commission for a detailed review, it was ready to engage with the Competition Commission “on substance”.
However, despite this move, seen as a classic delaying tactic by some local media analysts, leading UK politicians have been the ratcheting up the pressure on the UK government and Murdoch to drop the bid. In a speech on 11 July, UK Leader of The Opposition Ed Miliband said that Rupert Murdoch should drop the BSkyB takeover given that News Corp’s position was, in his words, now “untenable” given the events of the last week.
Yet more worrying for the UK government and Murdoch, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg advised Murdoch to review his bid and to "do the decent and sensible thing".
All of the events added up to another pounding for New Corp on financial markets and in the courts in the US where investors are launching an action against the media giant.