Stan Life urges Gilbert to get better offer for Sky

Sky deputy chairman Martin Gilbert

Edinburgh-based fund manager Standard Life Investments argued on Monday that Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox is not offering enough for British pay-TV firm Sky Plc and questioned the independence of some of Sky’s independent directors who will assess the proposal.

Thomas Moore, investment director at Standard Life Investments, a Sky shareholder, told BBC radio that his firm is hoping that Sky’s deputy chairman Martin Gilbert — who is also Aberdeen Asset Management chief executive — will “put forward a strong case that this (offer) undervalues the true value of this company.”

Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox confirmed on Friday it reached an agreement in principle to buy the 61% of Sky it does not already own for around $14 billion.

The proposed offer is for £10.75 per share in cash less the value of any dividends subsequently paid by Sky — a premium of 40% to Sky’s closing price on December 6.

Sky has formed an independent committee of the board to consider the terms of the proposal. 

Asked if Murdoch was offering enough for Sky, Moore said: “Well, we’ve got to represent the interests of our clients and our view would be no — this isn’t a good deal.

“The shares were at this level back in April …

“The share price clearly was at a low ebb on Friday when the bid was rumoured and of course we would be expecting a full value.

“And the question is whether the board is independent enough to represent the interests of all shareholders — not just the 40% that is owned by 21st Century Fox.”

Asked if investors would be satisfied that Sky’s independent directors are independent enough, Moore said: “Well, I think if you have a look at the boards, you can see that there is quite a heavy representation of people who are connected in some way with Rupert Murdoch … so that is quite a big lobby on the board for the interests of the family …

“So we would hope that Martin Gilbert will step up and put forward a strong case that this (bid) undervalues the true value of this company.”

However, Gilbert told Reuters on Friday the offer was a good premium worth presenting to shareholders.