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BSkyB confirms talks with Fox over assets in Germany, Italy

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[May 12, 2014]  FRANKFURT/LONDON (Reuters) British Sky Broadcasting said on Monday it was in early talks with Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox over the possible acquisition of its pay-TV assets in Germany and Italy, Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia.

"BSkyB believes at the right value, this combination would have the potential to create a world-class multinational pay TV group," the group said in a statement.

A deal would unite Murdoch's European satellite holdings in a single group. Fox owns a 39 percent stake in BSkyB, a 55 percent stake in Sky Deutschland and all of Sky Italia.

Bloomberg had reported on Friday that Fox was in talks for such a deal, worth about 10 billion euros ($13.8 billion), that would turn BSkyB into a European satellite-TV giant. It quoted people familiar with the situation.

21st Century Fox said on Monday said the combination of the Sky-branded European satellite platforms in Britain, Germany and Italy had often been discussed internally, but it noted that no agreement had ever been reached.

"Over the years we've had numerous internal discussions regarding the organizational and ownership structure of the European Sky-branded satellite platforms," the company said in a statement.

"From time to time these conversations have included BSkyB, however no agreement between the parties has ever been reached."

Shares in Sky Deutschland were trading up 7 percent at 6.8 euros, valuing the group at 5.97 billion euros ($8.21 billion). Shares in BSkyB were trading down 2.3 percent at 896 pence at 3.20 a.m. EDT, giving it a market capitalization of 13.6 billion pounds ($22.9 billion).

Rupert Murdoch tried to take full ownership of BSkyB in 2010, but the bid was derailed by a phone hacking scandal involving his British tabloid News of the World in 2011. The U.S. company later split into two, with its media assets listed as 21st Century Fox and its publishing activities remaining in News Corp.

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BSkyB said talks were still preliminary and no agreement has been reached on terms, value or transaction structure. It said that there was no certainty that a transaction would occur.

Barriers to a deal include the fact that fact that Sky Italia is yet to renew the Serie A soccer rights in Italy, which is a key part of its TV offering, analysts at Citi said.

Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper said the media watchdog Ofcom was poised to obstruct any attempt by Murdoch to unite his continental pay-TV businesses with BSkyB in a way that would give him overall control of the British satellite broadcaster.

The newspaper quoted sources saying such a deal would be likely to prompt opposition from the communications regulator, based on media plurality concerns.

(Reporting by Maria Sheahan in Frankfurt and Paul Sandle in London; Editing by Jonathan Gould and Jane Merriman)

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