Report: AT&T considers bid for EchoStar or DirecTV

Lawyers looking into time it might take for government approval of a deal, according to newspaper report.

Communications giant AT&T has been contemplating a big purchase in the satellite television sector and now appears to be poised to do a deal, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

AT&T has been consulting lawyers in Washington, D.C., to see how long it would take to get government approval to buy either EchoStar Communications or DirecTV Group, the Journal said.

AT&T could disclose a bid to buy either of them before year-end in the hope of getting approvals before a new administration takes office, the paper said.

There has been recent market speculation that AT&T could make a bid for EchoStar to expand into satellite television to better compete with rivals like Verizon Communications.

AT&T Chief Financial Officer Rick Lindner declined to comment on the matter on a conference call with analysts on Tuesday.

The paper said EchoStar would be a less complicated acquisition, since it is held mostly by institutional shareholders. EchoStar has a market value of about $10 billion.

DirecTV, however, is much larger, with a market value of about $30 billion, and is 39.5 percent owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Last year, John Malone's Liberty Media agreed to buy News Corp.'s stake in DirecTV, though the deal is still awaiting approval by regulators.

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