DirecTV Owner Said to Seek Deal for Sirius XM

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Posted by on February 12, 2009 at 11:51:21:

In Reply to: Sirius XM Stock Plunges To 5 Cents A Share posted by on February 11, 2009 at 22:25:51:

DirecTV Owner Said to Seek Deal for Sirius XM

Published: February 11, 2009

Sirius XM Radio, the satellite radio giant that is on the brink of bankruptcy, is in preliminary talks with Liberty Media, the conglomerate controlled by John C. Malone, people briefed on the negotiations said on Wednesday.

A deal between Sirius XM and Liberty, which owns a controlling interest in DirecTV, could create a battle for control of the satellite radio company.

EchoStar, the television satellite company, has been acquiring Sirius XM's debt and has been angling to take over the company as part of a negotiation to keep Sirius from falling into bankruptcy. DirecTV is the nation's largest satellite television provider by subscribers, ahead of the Dish Network from EchoStar.

The negotiations come as Sirius XM faces $175 million in debt payments that will come due on Tuesday. The company is unlikely to be able to meet those obligations. Mel Karmazin, Sirius XM's chief executive, has been locked in talks with Charles W. Ergen, his counterpart at EchoStar, these people said. The two men are said not to get along, and Mr. Karmazin has rebuffed Mr. Ergen's advances before.

A play by Mr. Malone for Sirius XM would pit the nation's two big satellite television stations against each other.

While EchoStar's proposal to Sirius XM is unclear, it may be no better for the radio company's bondholders than a bankruptcy filing, people close to the company said. Sirius XM hired advisers several weeks ago to prepare for a potential bankruptcy filing, which could come within days, these people said.

It is not clear how advanced the talks between Sirius XM and Liberty are, but any potential deal between the two could incite a bidding war with EchoStar. Because EchoStar holds a large portion of Sirius XM's debt - a majority of the $175 million due on Tuesday and part of $400 million that comes due in December - it may have an upper hand in any such negotiations.

A sale to Liberty could also ensure that Mr. Karmazin keeps his job, as he is unlikely to have a position in any deal with EchoStar.

Mr. Ergen and Mr. Malone are longtime rivals. In the past they have discussed a possible merger or joint venture to cut costs, but those talks stalled over antitrust concerns in 2002.

Mr. Malone's involvement with Sirius may just be a ploy to make a takeover by EchoStar more expensive, analysts suggest. If that is the case, Mr. Malone would be taking a page from Mr. Ergen's playbook - EchoStar has been known for becoming involved in potential mergers to drive up the price a rival must pay.

Mr. Ergen has lost a number of bidding wars in the last few years, including a failed bid for the satellite giant Intelsat and the broadcast network Ion Media Networks.

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