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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 21:33 GMT 22:33 UK
Murdoch wins US satellite scrap
News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch's long game has paid off
Shares in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp have fallen after it announced it had won control of satellite network DirecTV, securing its long-sought foothold in the US satellite TV market.

The satellite firm is currently controlled by General Motors via its Hughes Electronics subsidiary, which has been on the market for two years.

News Corp will pay about $6.6bn - $3.1bn in cash and the rest in shares - for GM's 19.9% stake in Hughes, and plans to buy up another 14.1% from other shareholders.

But news of the deal hit the value of shares in both News Corp and the entertainment group Fox, which is majority controlled by News Corp.

Share slump

The deal marks the culmination of two decades of attempts by Mr Murdoch to move into satellite TV in the US, complementing his terrestrial Fox network

(Mr Murdoch's) enterprises give people what they want, rather than what important people think they ought to want
Stephen Evans, BBC North America business correspondent

Once the deal is complete, Hughes will become part of Fox Entertainment.

But the deal will also saddle Fox with an extra $4.5bn of debt, and the company will also issue 74 million new shares to News Corp.

Worries about the structure of the deal saw shares in Fox Entertainment tumble $4.65, or 17%, to $22.60.

News Corp American depositary receipts dropped $1.77 to $25.45.

"Via this transaction, we are less convinced that Fox is being managed as an operating entity rather than a financing vehicle for News Corp.," said Jessica Reif Cohen, an analyst at Merrill Lynch.

On and off

News Corp has remained a suitor for DirecTV throughout the lengthy, bumpy history of GM's attempts to find a buyer.

Originally EchoStar, a competing satellite TV service, thought it had the deal sewn up.

But US regulators demanded massive concessions on competition grounds, forcing EchoStar to pull out.

Other names were floated including SBC Communications, the phone giant that dominates telecoms in the western US, but News Corp stayed in the picture to win at the finish.

Closely watched

Mr Murdoch may not escape regulatory scrutiny himself, though.

The Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department may seek assurances that by making DirecTV part of Fox, News Corp is not intending to shut its competitors - not least EchoStar - out of crucial programming.

In the UK, some cable channels have alleged that BSkyB, Mr Murdoch's UK satellite network and the pioneer of his global satellite operations, has used its dominant position to charge dearly for its programming.

But Mr Murdoch promised that would not happen.

"Both News Corp. and DirecTV are committed to be bound by the FCC program access regulations under which we will make our content readily available to all satellite television providers as well as cable and other competing platforms," he said.

Murdoch extends his reach
10 Apr 03  |  Business
US satellite TV battle hots up
10 Feb 03  |  Business
US satellite TV deal scrapped
10 Dec 02  |  Business
US blocks TV merger
10 Oct 02  |  Business
Rupert Murdoch: Bigger than Kane
31 Jul 02  |  UK News

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