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News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch sounded cautious Tuesday about whether his company would bid a second time for Hughes and DirecTV if the assets come up for sale, according to reports.

Murdoch, addressing investors at a Goldman Sachs Media Conference, said he would be "interested" in DirecTV if it became available. "Naturally we are watching what is happening," he said. "But we would look very carefully."

EchoStar outbid News Corp. for the Hughes/DirecTV assets last October. New rumors suggested that not only is the Justice Department's antitrust staff leaning against the deal, but staff members at the Federal Communications Commission also are recommending that regulators reject the merger.

Still, both sides of the DBS merger debate cautioned that parties continue to file documents at the FCC, and that executives - including EchoStar CEO Charlie Ergen - await to be deposed at the Justice Department.

At EchoStar, spokesman Marc Lumpkin said, "We continue to provide information to the DOJ and FCC about the merger. We believe the merger is good for consumers and should be approved based on its compelling merits."

In another merger development, EchoStar and DirecTV said that if they are allowed to combine operations, the merged entity would lose money in 2003 and possibly for a number of years after the deal is closed, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing from the companies. The statement came in the latest version of the prospectus detailing the merger, which also said investment bankers and advisors may earn about $200 million in fees and expenses if the companies combine operations.

From SkyReport (Used with Permission)
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