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AT&T Moves Ahead on DISH Deal

Updated from 10 a.m.

AT&T has hired Goldman Sachs to explore the acquisition of EchoStar (DISH - Get Report), TheStreet.com has learned.

Goldman was hired by AT&T about a month ago, says a source familiar with the companies. It was around that time that EchoStar said it was considering splitting its TV broadcasting operations from its wholesale satellite transmission business.

The move adds more fuel to the deal developments first reported last month by TheStreet.com, and comes as Citigroup issued an analyst note saying it expects that AT&T will pay $65 a share to buy EchoStar's TV business.

AT&T said it had no comment. "We are not commenting," an EchoStar representative said.

"I think they want to get this deal done this year, I'd give it three to six weeks to put it together," says another source who follows both companies.

The deal would give AT&T control over the video offering to supplement its delayed and costly TV-via-Internet effort. The push to get the deal underway now comes from the perception that the current pro-deal, Republican-led regulatory agencies could change if a Democratic administration is elected next year, observers say.

Speculation that AT&T would want to take over its satellite TV partner has been circulating for more than a year.

Last month, sensing a deal in the works, Oppenheimer analyst Tom Eagan raised his rating on the Dish satellite broadcaster to a buy, speculating in a research note Thursday that AT&T would likely pay about $56 a share for the TV service.

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