Thursday, February 5, 2009

EchoStar Amasses Sirius XM Debt

The Wall Street Journal - Charles Ergen's EchoStar Corp. has quietly accumulated a substantial portion of Sirius XM Satellite Radio Inc.'s maturing debt in what could be the first salvo in an attempt to take control of the embattled company, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Ergen, who controls a satellite-television empire around Dish Network Corp. and EchoStar, has recently acquired part of a $300 million tranche of Sirius debt that matures on Feb. 17, according to the people. Sirius recently converted part of the debt to equity, reducing the total debt outstanding to about $175 million. It isn't clear whether Mr. Ergen participated in the exchange, however. Mr. Ergen could also be buying up senior bank debt, due in May, which trades thinly on the over-the-counter market.

Mr. Ergen's salvo comes as Sirius shares have sunk to just 14 cents each, and large portions of its $3.4 billion debt load trade at a deep discount. The company, which has a market value of $501 million, isn't profitable, and has lost nearly all its value since the Sirius-XM combination was finalized this summer.

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