Disney raises its bid for Fox to $71 billion

21st Century Fox Inc. accepted a sweetened, roughly $71 billion bid from Walt Disney Co. for its entertainment assets, dealing a blow to Comcast Corp.’s efforts to acquire the business.

The $38-a-share price is about $10 a share higher than what Disney offered in December — and $3 above Comcast’s bid from last week. The new agreement also offers more flexibility and other enhancements than the Comcast offer, Fox said on Wednesday.

At stake is a trove of media properties, ranging from “The Simpsons” to “X-Men,” that may help fend off the threat from Netflix Inc. and other streaming upstarts. Both Disney and Comcast are looking to use the Fox assets to bolster their content and expand overseas.

The tussle follows AT&T Inc.’s victory over the U.S. Justice Department in its antitrust battle to take over Time Warner Inc. That outcome is expected to spur a wave of media consolidation, emboldening companies to get more aggressive with deals.

The Disney-Comcast contest will determine who controls much of Rupert Murdoch’s empire, including Fox’s movie and TV studios, television networks such as FX, and multichannel providers like Star India and Sky Plc.

The new offer gives Fox shareholders the option to take their payment in the form of cash or stock, up to a 50-50 level. The previous agreement was an all-stock deal, and Comcast’s cash offer was seen as a significant enticement.

Disney also plans to take on about $13.8 billion of Fox’s net debt. That would lift the total transaction value above about $85 billion.

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Disney raises its bid for Fox to $71 billion