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Fox or Time Warner, who will blink first? Time Warner changes bylaws

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BENGALURU: Reports fly thick and fast, some speculation, some part truth across the global media about the aftermath of Time Warner’s rejection of Twenty First Century Fox (Fox) unsolicited merger bid. What will the 83 year old tough as nails Fox ‘patriarch’ Rupert Murdoch do next? Known for his bulldogged tenacity once he sets his sights on a company, what and when (and not will it) will Fox up the ante to a reportedly manageable USD105 per share.

Time Warner has in the meantime initiated evasive action to thwart attacks on its soft underbelly by eliminating a provision in its bylaws that earlier could let just 15 per cent of its shareholders call special meeting, so as to prevent it being forced to consider the Fox offer in case Fox resorts to this measure to force the issue. The bylaws now say that the CEO or a majority of the board can call a special meeting.

There is a quiet buzz of Time Warner’s CEO Jeff Bewkes alleged animosity towards Murdoch and his hierarchical management bent. Under expert hatchet man Bewekes leadership, Time Warner has chopped the unwieldy behemoth created by the largest media deal ever by the AOL-Time Warner merger in 2000-01, and has delivered a total shareholder return of more than 150 per cent since 2008, almost tripling the return of the S&P 500 over the same period.

Speculation is rife about Fox paring off its wholly-owned Sky Italia unit and its 57 per cent stake in Sky Deutschland AG to British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc., within the next two weeks for about USD 13 billion. US banks JPMorgan & Chase Company and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., will probably help Murdoch finance the bid say pundits. Fox and the British Sky Broadcasting Group had disclosed their talks about a possible transaction in May this year.

For now, Fox’s bid has probably kept at bay bids from Time Warner’s suitors such as Google among others, unless of course, Google/others can better the approximate USD85 per share offer made by Fox.

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