News Corp withdraws BSkyB bid

Ahead of Commons vote, Rupert Murdoch withdraws bid to take full control of the company.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has withdrawn its bid to take full control of BSkyB, ahead of a Commons vote urging the company to do so.

News Corp made the following statement:

News Corporation ("News Corp") announces that it no longer intends to make an offer for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC ("BSkyB") not already owned by it *.

Chase Carey, Deputy Chairman, President and Chief Operating Officer, News Corporation, commented: "We believed that the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corporation would benefit both companies but it has become clear that it is too difficult to progress in this climate. News Corporation remains a committed long-term shareholder in BSkyB. We are proud of the success it has achieved and our contribution to it."

However, it is worth noting that the statement leaves open the possibility of making another bid:

For the purposes of Rule 2.8 and other relevant provisions of The City Code on Takeovers and Mergers ("City Code"), News Corp reserves the right to announce an offer or possible offer or make or participate in an offer or possible offer for BSkyB and/or take any other action which would otherwise be restricted under Rule 2.8 of the City Code within the next six months in the event that:

(i) there is an announcement other than by News Corp or any subsidiary of News Corp of an offer or possible offer for or a merger or possible merger with BSkyB; or

(ii) BSkyB announces a whitewash proposal for Rule 9 purposes or a reverse takeover not involving News Corp or any subsidiary of News Corp.

As Carey says, it is impossible to progress the bid "in this climate". It could be a politically expedient move to withdraw now and return to it later.

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.