Liberty, EchoStar to make bid for Intelstat

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NEW YORK -- Liberty Media and EchoStar Communications are preparing a joint offer for satellite communications provider Intelsat Ltd., the Wall Street Journal's online edition reported Thursday.

Intelsat, which is accepting final bids for its auction on Thursday, could fetch more than $5.5 billion, the Journal said.

The pairing represents a bold cooperation between satellite-TV broadcaster EchoStar and media holding company Liberty, the Journal said. Liberty is slated to take control of competing satellite-broadcaster DirecTV Group. But the two could decide against a formal bid, it added.

Neither Liberty Media nor EchoStar returned calls seeking comment.

Intelsat, the world's largest commercial satellite operator, was taken private in August 2004 by four private equity firms -- Apax Partners, Permira, Apollo Management and Madison Dearborn Partners -- in a $3.1 billion deal. Months later, Intelsat expanded by agreeing to buy another large satellite operator, PanAmSat.

In April, the private equity owners of Intelsat were approached by a potential buyer of the company, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters at the time.

Private equity firms in particular are drawn to the satellite sector because of the companies' steady cash flows, which allow them to take on large amounts of debt to finance transactions.
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