EchoStar Communications Corp. beat analysts' expectations Thursday with
reports that it signed on more than 460,000 net new Dish Network subscribers in
the first quarter. The company also posted $51 million in EBITDA (earnings
before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) -- its first
Chairman Charlie Ergen predicted that the company could continue to report
positive cash flow for the rest of this year.
The company's stock spiked in heavy early morning trading, with prices up as
much as 16 percent at times. By mid-afternoon, shares were still trading more
than 10 percent higher than Wednesday's close.
Dish could tally 1.5 million to 2 million net new subscribers for the year,
given the current pace of the economy, Ergen told analysts.
In addressing the proposed merger between competitor Hughes Electronics Corp.
and News Corp., Ergen said, 'We have to be prepared for any eventuality, and I
think for the most part, we are.' He added that he prefers to compete with the
best because doing so makes his company stronger in the process.
But Ergen also did not rule out making his own play for Hughes and its
DirecTV Inc. subsidiary. He predicted that ultimately, a merger between EchoStar
and DirecTV could pass government muster, but he added that since there are no
guarantees, any proposed merger would carry risks to the companies and
'You would have to be pretty confident' about getting government approval,
Ergen said. 'It's not something you would take a 50-50 shot at.'
EchoStar had about 5.72 million subscribers at the end of March. Its total
revenue for the quarter was $862 million. Its operating loss for the quarter was