By Liana B. Baker and Sinead Carew
NEW YORK Aug 6 Dish Network Corp
Chairman Charlie Ergen kept investors guessing about his next
strategic move on Tuesday by keeping the door open to everything
from a possible partnership with Sprint Corp to tie-ups
with either T-Mobile US or DirecTV.
Ergen, who recently lost a battle to buy Sprint, cited a
preference for a network partnership in wireless, a market that
he has focused Dish's growth prospects.
The executive said in a conference call on Tuesday that
T-Mobile US could be his only option left as a wireless
acquisition, but noted that the No. 4 player in U.S. mobile
services might not be a challenge Dish would be willing to take
Ergen's spoke for the first time on Tuesday since he bowed
out in June from his bitter battle with SoftBank Corp
to buy Sprint and smaller wireless provider Clearwire.
Dish has struggled to find a cost-effective way to use the
billions of wireless spectrum it owns to offer wireless
broadband services, but Ergen said he has "a lot of options" in
"I think in an ironic sort of way Sprint becomes an
interesting potential partner for us," Ergen said, as he heaped
praise on the company and its majority owner SoftBank and noted
that he had found out a lot about Sprint when he took a look at
its books as part of his efforts to buy the company.
Ergen also left open the possibility that Dish could
potentially merge with rival satellite TV provider DirecTV
- a deal that some analysts say would create enough
savings to fund the construction of a wireless network.
While the U.S. government already blocked a deal between
Dish and DirecTV in 2002, Ergen said it could be easier to get a
deal approved now due to the entry of multiple new competitors
into the TV market in the last decade.
"Certainly the marketplace is materially different than last
time we tried to merge with DirecTV," said Ergen referring to
competition from Verizon Communications and AT&T Inc
and the rising popularity of Internet video services such
as Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc.
A DirecTV spokesman declined to comment on Ergen's remarks.
Ergen also confirmed that his company is interested in
buying LightSquared, the bankrupt wireless business of Harbinger
Capital, the hedge-fund of Phil Falcone.
Shares of Dish, the second-largest U.S. satellite TV
company, were up 40 cents at $44.92 in afternoon trading on
Nasdaq as investors appeared to focus on the company's wireless
prospects rather than its financial results.
Since the satellite TV business is maturing, Ergen is hoping
that adding services such as wireless video would create a new
avenue for growth.
Dish said it lost 78,000 net subscribers in the second
quarter, which is more than the 47,000 subscriber loss analysts
It posted a net loss in the second quarter as it took a $438
million charge related to satellite acquisitions, and reported a
decline in gross pay-TV subscribers.
The company, said it took the charge in the quarter ended
June on two of the three satellites it bought in 2011. In 2011,
Dish bought hybrid satellite and land-based communications
company DBSD North America for about $1.4 billion in 2011 and
also bought satellite communications company TerreStar Networks
Inc for $1.38 billion.
Dish reported a net loss of $11 million, or 2 cents per
share, in the second quarter, compared with a net profit of $226
million, or 50 cents per share, a year earlier.
Revenue rose 1 percent to $3.61 billion.
Dish added about 61,000 net broadband subscribers in the
second quarter, up from nearly 11,000 a year earlier. Analysts
had expected 52,000.