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Report: DISH Talks Merger With DirecTV

2 Apr, 2014 By: Doug McPherson


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Bloomberg News reports that DISH Network Chairman Charlie Ergen has talked to DirecTV CEO Mike White about merging the two companies.

Sources say Ergen approach White as a response to Comcast’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable. And White is reportedly reluctant to move forward believing regulators may block the deal because the two companies are direct competitors.

The two companies had about 34.3 million satellite subscribers at the end of 2013. DirecTV is the largest U.S. satellite-TV operator, with about 20 million paying subscribers. DISH is No. 2 with about 14 million subscribers, and also has a spectrum portfolio that may be valued at almost $26 billion, according to Bloomberg Industries.

Walt Piecyk, an analyst with BTIG, isn’t surprised by the report and told AdAge, “Given the rapidly changing industry dynamics, everyone should be talking to everyone, and if you’re not, you might be left behind. I highly doubt that DirecTV is the only company that Ergen has spoken with. This should serve as a reminder to AT&T and Verizon that a strategic asset has other options that could make DISH unbuyable in the future.”

James Ratcliffe, an analyst at Buckingham Research Group, wrote in a note after the report. “Ergen has made it clear in the past that he believes a combination with DTV would create significant value, so the fact that he approached DTV CEO Mike White wouldn’t surprise us.”

However, Ratcliffe added, “We remain skeptical” because of prospects for a “difficult regulatory approval process.”

Some speculate a deal may be more likely to pass under a new presidential administration. Others say the key to a deal being approved is how regulators view the market. And one person close to the talks says if video competition is extended to online services, such as Netflix, a deal could pass.

Even if regulators allow Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable, DirecTV management doesn’t see the cable deal as a proxy for an approval of deal with DISH, said another person. DirecTV and DISH’s 2002 attempt to merge was blocked by regulators.
 


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