EchoStar tries, tries again

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Refusing to admit defeat, EchoStar Communications Corp. is asking the
Federal Communications Commission to approve its merger with DirecTV Inc. parent
Hughes Electronics Corp.

The company wants an expedited review of a revised application it will file this week,
and it wants the FCC to drop an order for a lengthy hearing process before an
agency administrative law judge.

Under a new deal with DirecTV and Hughes Electronics owner General Motors Corp., EchoStar said the deal must close by
Jan. 6 or GM, under certain circumstances, can pull the pin on their merger.
That's a couple of weeks earlier than expected. The original Jan. 21 termination
date was set when the merger plan was first crafted a little more than a year
ago.

EchoStar's agreement to take over Hughes Electronics has a
drop-dead date of Jan. 21, meaning that either side could pull out if the deal
hasn't closed.

But in the new FCC filing, the companies said Hughes can terminate the
deal as early as Jan. 6 if EchoStar hasn't secured FCC approval. And, of course,
the FCC has already rejected the deal once, saying it would harm consumers by
reducing competition.

Because the FCC can't simply say no to a merger, EchoStar has the options of
submitting the negative vote for review before an agency administrative law
judge, submitting a revised merger agreement, or dropping the deal entirely.

EchoStar, in addition to filing a new application, is asking the administrative
judge to rule that a hearing was unnecessary and the FCC's no
vote was unjustified.

Hughes is widely expected to drop the deal when it can,
to collect a $600 million breakup fee and to force EchoStar to follow through on
its $2.8 billion interest in PanAmSat Corp.

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