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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 09/98: Murdoch meets Man Utd  
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Murdoch meets Man Utd Friday, 23 October, 1998, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Bid rumours 'unfounded'
Inside Old Trafford stadium
BSkyB has its sights firmly fixed on Manchester United's Old Trafford
The UK Government has denied reports that it has already decided to approve a 623m ($920m) takeover bid for Manchester United by Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB satellite broadcaster.

A spokesman for Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson, who has the last say on the proposed deal, described press reports as "unwarranted speculation".

Peter Mandelson
Peter Mandelson - has the last say on the deal
He said the deal had not even been considered.

"Mr Mandelson has given no consideration to this issue and will not do so until he receives advice from the Director General of Fair Trading, which is expected at the beginning of November," said the spokesman.

On Friday the Guardian newspaper had reported that Mr Mandelson was ready to endorse the takeover, claiming he was convinced that the takeover would be legal in terms of competition law.

Both sides have said they are confident that the deal will eventually be approved.

Analysts expect the bid to be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC), but predict that it will eventually get the go-ahead.

Too powerful?

Opponents fear that as owner of the most popular team in the UK and the main purchaser of television rights for live English Premiership football, Rupert Murdoch would have too much power.

On Thursday, 46 members of parliament urged Mr Mandelson to refer the bid to the MMC.

They said the deal would create an unacceptable situation which would not be in the best public interest of fans, clubs, television viewers or sport in general.

They also said that a move to accept the deal by Mr Mandelson would lead critics to renew claims that the government is trying to win favourable coverage from the media tycoon.

A group of Manchester United shareholders, Shareholders United Against Murdoch (SUAM), have also urged investors not to sell their shares, claiming the BSkyB bid badly undervalues the club.

BSkyB already owns more than 11% of the club after buying another 5.3m shares on Thursday.

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