Murdoch bid for DirecTV moves closer
NEW YORK - A bid by Rupert Murdoch for DirecTV moved a step closer yesterday as the US satellite TV's owner Hughes Electronics refused to extend the deadline for current suitor EchoStar, whose bid is mired in regulatory problems.
Last month, Murdoch revealed he was preparing a new bid for US satellite television company DirecTV, after he lost out at the 11th hour to a $18bn (£11.4bn) from Echostar last year. The News Corporation chairman said that, should General Motors sell its shares in Hughes, he would be interested in buying them.
EchoStar trumped Murdoch at the last moment last year after he had spent 18 months stalking DirecTV. EchoStar's bid has now looks likely to be blocked by US regulators. The Federal Communications Commission said this week that comments from the public on the deal are due on January 3. But it is the US Department of Justice and the 23 states that are trying to block the deal that many believe will kill the deal.
Even if it is not stopped, the deal needs more time to complete. However, while EchoStar said it was willing to extend the termination date [beyond January 21] to allow for the investigation and public comment, Hughes said it would not waver "any of the termination provisions in the merger agreement".
The Department of Justice case has now been given a trial date of late February at the earliest, which is well after the January 21 termination date and too late for EchoStar. If the deal is not completed by January 21, Hughes can walk away and pick up a $600m break-up fee for its trouble.
The news of a possible new Murdoch bid follows the reports earlier this month that News Corp raised $1.3bn via a stock offering in Fox Entertainment Group. The money could be used to start new talks with General Motors about merging DirecTV into News Corporation's satellite TV operations, which also include BSkyB.
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