Liberty Media, Echostar plan joint bid for Intelsat, says report

Mumbai: Liberty Media Corp. and EchoStar Communications Corp. are preparing a joint offer for Intelsat, the world''s largest commercial satellite operator, The Wall Street Journal''s online edition reported. Intelsat, which has approximately $11.5 billion in debt, is expected to draw bids ranging from $4.5 billion to over $5.5 billion, the report said.

Media holding company Liberty is also slated to take control of competing satellite-broadcaster DirecTV Group Inc. But the two could decide against a formal bid, it added.

Intelsat''s current private-equity owners believe that the joint bid won''t face antitrust hurdles because Intelsat is in a different business than EchoStar and DirecTV, and that cable operators would retain existing long-term contracts for satellite capacity, or could switch to fiber lines as an alternative, the report quoted people familiar with the process as saying.

The pairing of Liberty Media and Echostar represents a bold cooperation between satellite-TV broadcaster and media holding company, the journal said.

Intelsat went private in August 2004 with its acquisition by four private equity firms — Apax Partners, Permira, Apollo Management and Madison Dearborn Partners — in a $3.1 billion deal. Later, Intelsat expanded by acquiring another major satellite operator, PanAmSat.

Liberty Media Corporation owns interests in a broad range of electronic retailing, media, communications and entertainment businesses, including the Liberty Interactive group, which includes Liberty''s interests in QVC, Provide Commerce, IAC/InterActiveCorp, and Expedia, and the Liberty Capital group, which includes Liberty''s interests in Starz Entertainment, News Corporation, and Time Warner.