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EchoStar preparing concessions on DirecTV bid

NEW YORK - US satellite operator EchoStar is understood to be revising its takeover plans of rival DirecTV in an 11th-hour attempt to get approval for the $18bn (£11bn) deal from communications regulator, the Federal Communications Commission.

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EchoStar is believed to be prepared to sell transmission capacity or satellite slots that would enable the creation of a new competitor in the satellite TV market.

Creating an additional operator would alleviate the regulator's concerns about competition in the marketplace.

If the condition is accepted it will also prevent Rupert Murdoch, chairman of BSkyB parent News Corporation, getting his hands on DirecTV, which is what would likely happen if EchoStar's bid is rejected.

The FCC and the Justice Department are both expected to oppose EchoStar's bid for DirecTV parent Hughes, part of General Motors, as early as this week.

Up until now, EchoStar had been bullish about the deal, believing the merger would create a satellite operator big enough to compete with the largest cable companies and with enough capacity to offer high-speed internet access and more local programming to customers across the country.

However, since it has been looking increasingly unlikely that US regulators would let the deal go through, EchoStar chief executive Charles Ergen is said to be looking at making changes to his plans.

The company has already written to FCC chairman Michael Powell to ask for a delay on the FCC vote while it puts together further concessions on the deal. The FCC had been expected to vote against the merger.

The companies are now said to be in the process of preparing remedies to the deal that will be handed to the Justice Department at a meeting on October 28 with assistant attorney-general for anti-trust Charles James.

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